Aloka

 JOURNAL - PAGE 14.

 

News Ticker

www.000webhost.com

 

 

  ARTICLES INDEX - PAGE 14 

  

J14.01   Vinaya - rules and the Sangha - We are living in an era of crisis.

J14.02    Help the Earth Survive by being Vegetarian - Now, if someone told you that a particular corporation was trashing the air...

J14.03    Science and Buddhism - There have been a lot of efforts from various individuals to compare...

J14.04    Why Navam Poya is Important - Navam Full Moon Poya is of special significance for the Buddhists...

J14.05    Significance of Unduvap Full Moon Poya Day - Unduvap is the last full moon Poya day according to...

J14.06    The Significance of Nikini Poya Day - Nikini is the eighth Full Moon Poya of the year.

J14.07    The purpose of life - What is the purpose of life? This is a question that has baffled

J14.08    Psychological aspects of Jathaka stories  - Stories are part of a human environment.

J14.09    Vesak Full Moon Poya day: The saga of the Buddhahood

J14.10    A Buddhist Point of View regarding the Failure of Capitalism

J14.11    The existence of objects - The materialists starting with the Greeks in the west

J14.12    War-like situation, peace and Buddhism - As a consequence of mechanical revolution, capitalistic civilization...

J14.13    Ata Visi Budhuvaru – The 28 Buddhas

J14.14    When three Pious Buddhists met royalty Part I - Part II - In Buddhist philosophy, it is known that one’s existence...

J14.15    Buddhism & The Soldier - Different people have understood Buddhism differently...

J14.16    Buddha Gaya - The site of Enlightenment

J14.17    Some thoughts for Vesak - Let us analyse the vision and knowledge of Buddhism

J14.18    The Out-of-doors So Significant in the Life of the Buddha

J14.19    Life and its purpose - Nothing comes from nothing, Nothing ever could.

J14.20    Planes of existence, a Buddhist perspective - We have mapped out a grand scheme of how the physical universe...
 

Journal

News

Letters

Books

Personalities

History

Aloka Home

J14.01   Vinaya  rules and the Sangha

D. Amarasiri Weeraratne

We are living in an era of crisis. It is an age of transition. In this world of change nothing is permanent. Anitya is a fundamental tenet in Buddhism. In this state of transiency we must strive to change for the better and not for the worse.

The Sangha is an order of monastics (monks and nuns) established by the Buddha for the continuance and longevity of the Sasana. He has proclaimed 215 rules for monks and 311 for nuns. These are called the Pratimoksha and is contained in the Vinaya Pitaka.

The Buddha in his wisdom envisaged future times when social, political and economic conditions would change. His monks would move forward from the wondering - ascetic stage to the monastic stage and from then to the sectrian stage. Therefore, he gave permission in the Maha Parinirvana Sutra for the monks at a future time to change certain rules in keeping with the spirit and ideals of his Dhamma-Vinaya. Those changes are to be adopted not according to the whims and fancies of influential individuals or groups. The changes must be brought forward by way of a motion by the Sangha leaders of a country, debated and adopted by a Sangha Council. Then it becomes binding on all.

We have the records of three Sangha-Councils held at Polonnaruwa, Dambadeniya and Kandy held under the patronage of Kings Parakramabahu I, Parakramabahu II and Kirti Sri Rajasingha. These delincate the Sangha organisation, administration and discipline-maintenance of the times when the Kings were the defenders of the faith and executors of the decisions of the Sangha Council.

There was the Maha-sami (Primate), his council of elders, the heads of the village dwelling monks and forest monk orders. There were Provincial Nayakas and superiors of monastries like in Siam and Burma today. The chief monks in a temple had to train and be responsible for the good conduct of his pupil-monks. He has to train them, educate them, correct their faults and report recalcitrant erratic monks to his superiors. They will prescribe penalties according to Vinaya-law. The incorrigible are disrobed and sacked according to the gravity of their violations.

Upto the time of the last Sinhalese King the Sanga organisation functioned well earning the respect and esteem of the people. Vinaya-violators were rare, recruitment, training and discipline were very well done. Fellow monks boycotted incorrigible vinaya-violators.

In 1815, the King was betrayed into the hands of the British. With the King removed the Sasana lost its defender, protector and patrons. The Sangha was incapable of functioning without the authority of the King to give legal force to Sangha-decisions. Decisions of the Sangadi-karana (Ecclesiastical Courts) were flouted by miscreant monks. Then the Sangha became a free for all.

Monks could flout the Vinaya as they wished. There was no superior or monk-superior who could control them. In this state of confusion some monks went to Burma, got ordained there and formed two rival sects called Amarapura and Ramanna. They had their own Primates and Ecclesiastical Courts. These were as powerless as those of the Siamese Sect as their decisions were not upheld by the Civil Courts.

Just as much as the Amarapura and Ramanna Sects were established ignoring the protests of the Primate of the Siamese Sect at Malwatte, the Bhikkuni Order has been established ignoring the objections of the Mahanayaka triumvirate.

Bhikkus started taking to politics in response to a call by Rev. Walpola Rahula in his "Heritage of the Bhilkku". Today we see monks doing politics, marching in political demonstrations, burning the flags of USA, Norway, etc. and bringing the Sangha to disrepute.

We see monks advertising their professional trades in newspapers as astrologers, black-magicians, tour-conductors to India, ayurvedical practitioners and a host of other trades.

The three primates of the Siamese, Amarapura and Ramanna are helpless. They have no control or discipline in the selection, ordination, education and discipline in the Sangha. It is a free-for all. The sasana is in disarray.

Now the latest craze is temporary ordination. This practice is not allowed, authorised or permitted in the Vinaya. It was never practised in Sri Lanka at any time.

We have our own apostasies of casteism and monopoly of Sangika property by Viharadhipati monks. These apostasies are unknown in other Therawada lands. In addition to our own apostasies we are now taking over a Thai-Burmese apostasy of temporary ordination.

The vows taken at ordination are life-long and not temporary. However of amendments to the Vinaya are desired to accommodate temporary ordinations the monks at a Sangha-Council could so amend the Vinaya. They could then revise the Vinaya to allow handling of cash, travelling in motor vehicles, use of umbrellas, talking more than five words to unescorted women, possessing luxury items motor cars, TV, radio, refrigerators, etc.

Vinaya can be revised according to a procedure called "Satara Vinaya Apadana" enunciated by the Buddha. The subject can be brought up at a Sangha Council, the pros and cons discussed and a decision taken on the novel deviations proposed. This is the only Buddha authorised Vinaya way in dealing with novel practices which deviate from the 2540 year old Pratimoksha Rules of the Buddha.

The present practice followed is most unsatisfactory. It is harmful to the Sangha and the religion. When the first motor cars arrived in Ceylon and Ven. Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala was invited to travel in a car, he hesitated very much and would not travel without consulting the Sangha elders. They took a local decision which has now come to stay. Their decision was right, but they did not amend the Vinaya rule. So we have many Vinaya rules out of date impracticable and violated by monks daily. At a Sangha Conference in Taiwan Ven. Walpola Rahula advocated a revision of the Vinaya. He put his case eloquently. He earnestly appealed for the abolition of caste-observance in his sect - the Siamese Sect. It was ignored and the Vinaya rules are violated by not only by temporary ordinations, but by Sangha politics and the resort to lay professions and trades.

Therefore, what is necessary is a Council of Mahatheras selected from the three Sects for their learning and piety. All novelty problems like temporary ordinations, revival of Bhikkuni Sasana, salaried employment of monks, Sangha-politics can be referred to them for study and a ruling to be given in terms of the Dhamma-Vinaya. That decision should be given legal validity by the government.

Without some such arrangement the Sinhalese Sangha will be a herd of stray cattle, without a leader, leadership and discipline. That leads to the disappearance of Buddhism.

"Anayaka vinassanti — Nassanti bahu nayaka". The leaderless perish, so will those with multiple leadership.

May Sasana reforms be undertaken early by a united Sangha leadership! May the Sasana endure long — ciram thittathu sasanam!

19 08 2003 - The Island

 

Journal

News

Letters

Books

Personalities History

Articles Index

J14.02   Help the Earth Survive by being Vegetarian

Nan

"Now, if someone told you that a particular corporation was trashing the air, water and soil; causing more global warming than the transportation industry; consuming massive amounts of fossil fuel; unleashing the cruelest sort of suffering on innocent and sentient beings; failing to recycle its waste; and clogging our arteries in the process, how would you react? Would you say, ‘Hey, that’s personal?’ Probably not. It’s more likely that you’d frame the matter as a dire political issue in need of a dire political response."

That is what James E. McWilliams, Associate Professor of History at Texas State University at San Marcos and a recent Fellow in the agrarian studies program at Yale University said at a recent lecture, the text of which was sent me. Reading it, I realized truths not known before such as the fact that meat producers to satisfy the taste buds of human carnivores pollutes this earth so badly. Mr. McWilliams is also the author of a recently published book Just Food.

At his talk in South Texas on the environmental virtues of a vegetarian diet, he found the reception chilly. In fact, the only applause came during the Q&A time when a member of the audience said that his lecture made him want to go out and eat even more meat. "Plus," the commentator had added, "what I eat is my business - it’s personal."

Mc William strongly opposes that view, that what one eats is personal and no business of others. He backs this argument with the fact that farming touches every aspect of our lives - the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the soil we seed.

This was an eye opener to me. I had only thought vegetarianism was good because it spared animals and for us Buddhists we would be upholding one of the five fundamental precepts we should observe: I will not kill, and extended, I shall harm no sentient being. But even Buddhists who sincerely mouth this precept eat eggs and fish excusing eggs as unfertilized and thus not encapsulating a potential life; and fish as lesser beings. However, ask any monk and he will say the life of a thora maaluwa is as important to him, the fish, and desirous of preserving as the life of a cow or human being. We structure a hierarchy for the animal world and excuse our eating of marine creatures from the tiny kunissa through shell fish to the big ones as a minor sin. We also give an excuse: "Fish oil is good for the system, from childhood to old age and particularly for the heart and arteries." It’s only a vegan who truly observes the first precept since even milk is taking away the calf’s nourishment. Personally I feel being a vegan is extreme but vegetarianism is very good.

Facts about the food industry

I take the liberty of quoting more from the article sent me titled Bellying up to environmentalism By James E. McWilliams and dated Monday, November 16, 2009.

"We know more than we’ve ever known about the innards of the global food system. We understand that food can both nourish and kill. We know that its production can both destroy and enhance our environment. The livestock industry as a result of its reliance on corn and soy-based feed accounts for over half the synthetic fertilizer used in the United States, contributing more than any other sector to marine dead zones. It consumes 70 percent of the water in the American West - water so heavily subsidized that if irrigation supports were removed, beef would cost $35 a pound. Livestock accounts for at least 21 percent of greenhouse-gas emissions globally - more than all forms of transportation combined. Domestic animals - most of them healthy - consume about 70 percent of all the antibiotics produced. Undigested antibiotics leach from manure into freshwater systems and impair the sex organs of fish. It takes a gallon of gasoline to produce a pound of conventional beef. If all the grain fed to animals went to people, you could feed China and India. That’s just a start."

He goes on to decry even so called ‘free range’ animals reared for killing like cattle left to graze; poultry pecking away out of their terrible incarceration in boxes all through their lives, force fed and light adjusted so they lay eggs more than once in 24 hours. We were once told that their beaks were sawed off so they don’t peck each other, so closely imprisoned are they. In countries like America "free-range" chickens never see the light of day because they cannot make it through the crowded shed.

"Grass-fed" beef produces four times the methane - a greenhouse gas 21 times as powerful as carbon dioxide - of grain-fed cows, and many grass-fed cows are raised on heavily fertilized and irrigated grass. Pastured pigs are still castrated without anesthesia and though they roam around a limited area they are not allowed to search for their own food by rooting, a basic instinct of pigs.

Do you remember what a hue and cry was raised by some Buddhist monks against fish and prawn farming some years ago? Ultimately the former, at least, was abandoned through a decree of the government of Ranasinghe Premadasa. The industries are back in action and we who consider the rights and wrongs of farming animals for human consumption find ourselves in a quandary. Spare the fish and impair the health of children of poor families? Fish is their source of animal proteins and essential vitamins we say advocating fish farming.

Except beef eaters, who are decreasing in number by the day, every one else abhors the methods of killing adopted in Sri Lankan abattoirs. I suppose our chicken farms resort to cruel methods to increase egg production and to fatten the creatures destined for killing. We like to believe that our best milk cows in high-end farms are really free to roam and feed at their pace and are not repeatedly impregnated through artificial insemination, confined to milking stalls and milked to yield 15 times the amount of milk they would produce under normal conditions.

The topic of the connection of animal husbandry to global warming is particularly apt with the Copenhagen Summit, alternately titled Copenhagen Climate Change Conference now on-going (7 – 18 December) where arguments arise, facts are presented and debated and solutions hopefully found and agreed upon to save the world. Temperatures are definitely rising, the sea is most certainly rising and fresh water is shrinking in volume. Billionaire Soros has pledged USD 150 bn to underpin a climate plan.

Vegetarianism

According to McWilliams and I suppose to many others who agree with him, "Vegetarianism is not only the most powerful political response we can make to industrialized food. It’s a necessary prerequisite to reforming it. To quit eating meat is to dismantle the global food apparatus at its foundation."

He continues: "As a vegetarian I’ve always felt the perverse need to apologize for my dietary choice. It inconveniences people. It smacks of self-righteousness. It makes us pariahs at dinner parties. But the more I learn about the negative impact of meat production, the more I feel that it’s the consumers of meat who should be making apologies."

We in our country are much more fortunate. Not for us to apologize about being vegetarian. We have grown up with this fundamental principle of life. Also we can get by very well eating no meat products. Except the abattoirs and chicken farms there is no abject cruelty to the animals being reared to give food to human beings. Additionally as pollution proceeds, we contribute very little to climate change by our animal husbandry business unlike America, as made clear by McWilliam who proposes that we make the fork, (the eating fork and in our case our right hands) a real tool for environmental change.

13 12 2009 - The Sunday Island

 

Journal

News

Letters

Books

Personalities History

Articles Index

J14.03   Science and Buddhism

Keerthi Wijayatunga
B.Sc. (Eng)

There have been a lot of efforts from various individuals to compare science and Buddhism. Some say Buddhism starts where science ends. Some say the most scientific religion is Buddhism. Science is ever-changing, is still growing and diversifying. Buddhism is 2,500 years old; Buddha never wrote his teaching and over the years it had undergone a lot of upheavals and split into sects, i.e. Theravada and Mahayana. However, the original teachings of the Buddha has prevailed to the present time and is often referred to as authentic Buddhism or Buddha Dhamma. Therefore, is it correct or possible to compare science and Buddhism?

Buddhism, today, is a religion followed by millions around the world. What the Buddha taught was Buddha Dhamma and was not for everyone like any branch of science, (In this article what is meant by Buddhism is Buddha Dhamma). You cannot make a whole population doctors, engineers or any other professionals. Those who study a particular discipline would only understand the content of each. Likewise, the Buddha had clearly declared his teaching is for those who practice the art of development of wisdom - Panna, (Panna wantassa maya dhamma); and not for those who do not. The unique path for the accomplishment of this objective was discovered by the Buddha and named it the Noble Eightfold Path (NEP), which is the Ariya atthangika magga, Majjima patipada or Dhamma cakka.

The NEP is used to separate mind (Nama) from the body (Rupa). This separation is called Namarupa pariccheda. Body is mundane and made of ever changing (Anicca) physical matter, grows old, catches deceases and dies. Whereas, the mind is super mundane, not made of physical matter, always new, never grows old and passes to a new body at death. As, it is useless to treat the body which cannot be cleaned permanently and protected from disease. The Buddha found the mind can be cleaned permanently and made to live permanently if it is separated from the body.

The ultimate objective of the Buddha Dhamma, therefore, is to grow and fulfil Panna and finally live in Panna or Nibbana without a body (Panna paripurin vepullattanca sayan abhinna sacchikatwa upasampajja viharati). The Buddha further states that what is great for the eternal life in Nibbana is Panna (Pannahu jeevin jeevita mahu setthan).

First of all, science cannot prove itself as scientific. With all ultra modern technology and scientific instrumentation the final decision-making still has to be done through the five senses viz. eye, ear, nose, tongue and body.

Whereas, the Buddha called the five senses as "fools" and said associating with them leads to the delusion of self "I". What he taught was to give up the use of five senses (Asevanaca balanam) and instead use the mind directly, Panna, (Panditananca sevana) for decision making or to see the "truth".

Therefore, according to the Buddha, science is non-science or Avijja. Use of the mind directly (Panna) and avoiding the use of senses, the Buddha called, Vijja or science. The one who is not associating with five senses is said to dwell in science (Vijja carana sampanno). Further, The Buddha has clearly mentioned that there is no science comparable to Samadhi (Samadhi natena samona vijjati). Samadhi is the integration of Samma sati, Samma vayama, Samma Samadhi and Panna is the result of Seela and Samadhi in the practical NEP.

Buddhism is the teaching of mind. It is correct to say the Buddha discovered the mind. Before the Buddha, everybody thought memory (Vinnana) was the mind. Vinnana is what all lay beings (Putujjana) call as mind. It is not the mind but the mind’s store of memory, knowledge and experiences.

The mind is seen in a step-by-step process in the NEP. The first time one sees or experiences the mind he/she becomes the first saint or the first refined person called Sotapanna. The second time the second saint (Sakadagami) etc. The mind is seen and comprehended fully only by the fourth saint or the Arahath. This is called realization of Four Noble Truths. Four noble truths are really the cross-section of the mind.

Every activity, whether bodily, verbal or mental, is done by appearing or rolling the mind from Rupa, Vedana, Sanna, Sankhara to Vinnana (form, sensation, recognition, judgment and memory) called the five aggregates. This can be realized by looking at something in front and closing the eyes and looking at what is automatically memorized. We perceive "the world" by rolling the mind separately in each of five senses. Due to this reason. The Buddha called the body, from head to toes containing mind and Vinnana, as "the-world" (Imasminca byama matte kalebare sasannamhi samanake lokanca pannapemi).

When one practice the NEP it can be seen that the mind cannot move a fraction of a millimetre out from the body and is bound to it by ten bonds called Dasa samyojana. No one can imagine anything which had not been seen or experienced earlier. All what we think is simply accessing the store of memory called Vinnana.

Anything we do is preceded by thinking of how to do (accessing Vinnana) and ends by memorizing what was done (storing in Vinnana). Therefore, this process of mind’s rolling from Vinnana to Rupa, Vedana, Sanna, Sankhara and again to Vinnana is called cycle of Samsara (Samsara cakka) as shown in the diagram.

The lay (Putujjana) mind has no escape from this cycle as each activity, whether good (wholesome) or bad (unwholesome), ends up in continuous accumulation of Vinnana and further extending Samsara.

The continuous process of appearing or rotating in this cycle is always taking place attached to the body (Rupa). Therefore the lay mind is always "attached" to a Rupa and in fact cannot escape from it.

As, the mind first appears (Uppada) in a Rupa it can be seen that this is one field or plane of mind activity called Rupa bhoomi and includes only the five senses. The mind appears in Rupa bhoomi to receive what is coming from outside viz. form, sound, smell, taste and touch. The outside agents are called Kama bhoomi or second plane of mind activity. This takes place during life or existence (Thiti).

Finally, mind leaves (Bhanga) the particular Rupa by storing all what was experienced as Rupa, Vedana, Sanna, Sankhara and Vinnana. Therefore, this is the third plane of mind activity called Vinnana. This is also called Arupa bhoomi since every physical Rupa (matter) is stored as images (Arupa). This attached rolling in three Bhoomis is what the lay mind is only capable of and is called Avijja carana or fifteen Caranas of the mind. Therefore, the Samsara Cakka shown above as a circle can also be drawn as a triangle as shown below.

If the three planes are magnets, the mind is like a steel ball moving from one plane to the other starting from and ending at Arupa bhoomi. The Buddha’s discovery, the NEP was to train the mind to keep away from all three planes and beat the centre of the triangle shown and is hence called Majjima Patipada.

It’s the mind which has the desire to see, hear, taste, etc. But, the mind cannot do them by itself directly. Therefore, it uses the poor, physical sense organs for those purposes. Each and every mind has four desires or requirements viz. to see (Dhitta), hear (Suta), and touch (Muta) and to know (Vinnata). All these are done by "rolling to five" (Papanca) in the respective sense organ.

Science utilizes this mind process of "rolling to five" in all its activities. The rolling to five only yields wrong information hence called Vinnana. Therefore, according to Buddhist doctrine science is an Avijja or non-science.

The Buddha on the other hand clearly mentions utilization of five senses (fools) should be avoided to see the truth. For this, the mind has to be stopped from rolling to five or Samsara cakka and it should be trained to directly see, hear, feel and know without rolling. The only way how to stop the Samsara cakka is by applying Dhamma cakka or Ariya atthangika magga or Majjima patipada or Magga. The result of practicing that is the attainment of Panna or Pancabhinna with which the mind can directly see, hear, touch and declare what is right and wrong.

Without the Magga and Pancabhinna all lay beings are in belief and suspicion. The saints (Ariya), who have developed Pancabhinna, live in truth and reality only.

Stopping of the mind’s rolling to five or Samsara cakka is called Vijja carana or Niccarana the salvation. Only a stopped mind can see truth and reality and any other lay method cannot. As, science is always utilizing a rolling mind and as long as it continues use of such a mind science is a far cry from truth and reality. It will undergo change for ever and will ever arrive at the truth.

Therefore, science is Avijja or non-science and the only science is Buddha dhamma.

01 12 2009 - The Island

 

Journal

News

Letters

Books

Personalities History

Articles Index

J14.04   Why Navam Poya is Important

Premasara Epasinghe

Navam Full Moon Poya is of special significance for the Buddhists in Sri Lanka due to some landmark incidents that took place on this day.

The first ever Buddhist Sangayanawa, or Buddhist Council, was held on Navam Poya Day. A "Brahamin of Magadha was a close disciple of the Buddha. He entered the Buddhist Order. His physical personality was very much like Buddha. As a very senior monk, after passing away of the Blessed One, this monk, named Mahakassapa, presided over the first Buddhist Council.

The Zen school regards Kasyapa as the First Patriarch. He is one of the major Arahat disciples of the Blessed One. He became an Arahat after being with the Buddha for only eight days. Before his death he was reported to have entrusted Ananda with leadership of the Order.

The appointment of Sariputta and Moggallana as the two chief disciples "Aggarasavakas" took place on Navam Poya Day. Sariputta was appointed to the prestigious position "Darmasenadhipati" and Moggallana as "Dharma Purohita" receptively.

In the modern world, Management play a vital role. The administration of business concern or public undertaking can be defined as Management. If you trace the history of Management, the disciples of Gautama Buddha followed and maintained high Management principles, two thousand five hundred years ago. This was known as "Vinaya" or discipline. It was well established with the first Buddhist Sangayanawa or Buddhist Council, which was held on Navam Poya Day. Buddha held the first congregation at Rajagaha, Veluvanaramaya, on a Navam Poya Day.

It was on Navam Full Moon Day, Sariputta attained Arahatship listening to "Vedana Pariggaha Sutta" expounded by the Enlightened One to Dighanaka.
There are two basic discourses in Buddhism. They are "Ovada Prathimoksha" means to give advise. Through this, you develop self-discipline. It was on Navam Poya Day that Buddha delivered a sermon on "Ovada Prathimoksha" to Sariputta and Moggallana Theras.

The other is known as "Ana Desana" which means to order to follow rules and regulations on discipline.

The deliverence of ‘Vedanaparigga Sutta’ to ascetic Diganaka took place at Sukarakhatalena, closed to mount Gijjakuta by Buddha on a Navam Poya Day.
Many lay Buddhists observe the Eight Precept (Atasil) on Navam Poya Day. The temples are filled to the capacity on this day. It heartening to observe that many youths actively participate in Buddhist Religious activities. Further, the Print and Electronic Media provide many Buddhist Religious Programmes throughout the day, on Poya days

09 02 2009 - The Island

 

Journal

News

Letters

Books

Personalities History

Articles Index

J14.05   Significance of Unduvap Full Moon Poya Day

Premasara Epasinghe

Unduvap is the last full moon Poya day according to the Sinhala Buddhist calendar. This year’s Unduvap Poya falls on Tuesday 01st December.

The unique event of bringing the Bo-sapling of the sacred Jayasiri Maha Bodhi from India to Anuradhapura, took place 2552 years ago on an Unduvap Full Moon Poya Day.

The advent of Buddhism to this resplendent island - Sri Lanka, on Poson Full Moon Poya Day, marked the dawn of a new social order, cultural and spiritual revolution. During the reign of Devanampiyatissa (250-210 B.C) Arahat Mahinda, brought Buddhism to Sri Lanka. Mahinda Thera, the son of the great Emperor Asoka, was totally responsible in bringing Buddhism to Sri Lanka. Later, it was Arahat Mahinda Thera’s sister, young beautiful, charming Sangamitta, who entered the Bhikkuni Sasana at the age of 18 years, who visited Sri Lanka, was responsible for the establishment of Bhikkuni Sasanaya or Buddhist order for womanhood, in Sri Lanka.

This brother - sister combination, made a great political, social, cultural, economic and religious renaissance in Sri Lanka. No foreigner has created such a cultural and spiritual impact in a country than Emperor Asoka’s son, Arhat Mahinda and his daughter Bhikkuni Sangamitta. Therefore, we, Sri Lankans are indebated to them.

As the Unduvap Full Moon Poya Day dawns, our thoughts and sentiments are woven round the pious and noble Sangamitta Theri. She was like an evening star among the Buddhist Womanhood. The arrival on Uduvap Full Moon Poya Day, along with the Sacred Bo-sapling, under which our blessed one, the enlightened one, attained the supreme bliss of Buddhahood. This is an event of supreme importance in the annals of Buddhist history. This is second only to the arrival of her brother, Arahat Mahinda to Missakapabata or Mihintale, on the historic Poson Poya Day.

After entering the Order, Sangamitta residing in the capital city - Pataliputra, when Kind Devanampiyatissa, cordially invited her to Sri Lanka to promote Buddhism in Sri Lanka among the womanhood.

Queen Anula and her companions were keen to enter the Buddhist order. Arahat Mahinda, informed the Royalty that it was not possible. Acting on the advise of Arahat Mahinda, the King Devanampiyatissa, send, I presume, his Foreign Minister Aritta, to meet Emperor Asoka, and through his good office, to persuade his daughter Sangamitta Theri to come to Sri Lanka and established Bhikkuni Sasanaya. (The order of the nuns).

Sangamitta Theri, after seven days of sea journey, accompanied by eleven other Bhikkunis (Buddhist nuns) arrived at the Jambukole Port in the North. She brought along with her, one of the greatest gifts that India could provide, to Sri Lanka, Jayasiri Maha Bo-Tree Sapling, to be planted in Sri Lanka soil. Jayasiri Maha Bo Tree is supposed to one of the oldest trees in the world, where the great Gautama Buddha attained the enlightenment.

According to Mahavamsa, the King Devanampiyatissa, with all pomp and glory and glamour, paying the highest respect and honour, wading neck deep into the sea, received the bowl containing the Jayasiri Maha Bodhi Sapling, which is respected and honoured as the living Gautama Buddha.

This Bo-Sapling was planted in the "Mahamevuna Uyana", the headquarters of Buddhism in ancient Sri Lanka. This event symbolises that Buddhism took deep root throughout the length and breadth of Sri Lanka. Later, there were many saplings planted in Sri Lanka, from the main Jayasirimaha Bo-Tree. A disciplined system of worshipping, rituals connected to this great religion began. Today, the Buddhists all over the world, consider the Jayasiri Maha Bodhiya at Anuradhapura and the Dalada Maligawa, the Tooth Relic Chamber in the Hill Capital Kandy, as two important places of worship.

The second most important mission or the purpose of Sangamitta’s arrival, was the establishment of Bhikkuni Sasanaya or order of the Buddhist nuns. Queen Anula, was the first to be ordained. Later thousands of ladies from all walks of life entered the Buddhist order as Bhikkunis.

The advent of Arahat Mahinda on Poson Full Moon Day marked men entering the Buddhist order, as Bhikkus and the arrival of Sangamitta signalled the establishment of Bhikkuni Sasanaya of females. Therefore, Uduvap Full Moon can be considered as the beginning of a new chapter in the history of Buddhism, and Sri Lankan womanhood. It paved way to a disciplined and a peaceful civil society. The Buddhist learning, art and architecture, construction of gigantic stupas and tanks began. The agricultural economy flourished. It was the duty of all Buddhist to pay homage to the Great Mahapurisha - Gautama Buddha, Dhamma, Sanga, the Noble Triple Gem become the order of the day, before the commencement of any auspicious Buddhist activity which we follow up to date.

They recite "Vandana Gathas", took refuge in the Triple Gem (Tisarana). The mark of respect of the great Virtues and Wisdom of the Buddha helped the Buddhists to gain confidence, and inspiration in their day to day life.

The Buddha was the holiest, most virtuous, wisest and spiritually perfect personality, who had ever lived. His Dhamma is the ultimate truth about universe, which explains the real nature of the world and of life as well.

The Sangha refers to all disciples of the Buddha who attained sainthood. Everyone must have some guidance for his spiritual development. One must never give up one’s right to think freely, intelligently, and respectfully in response to whatever is taught in the name of the religion.

On Unduvap Full Moon Poya Day, the centre of Buddhist attraction will be Anuradhapura and Mihintale.

The city of Anuradhapura, nestling in the banks of Malwatu Oya was founded in the 4th century. It is believed that the Sinhala culture and civilization in this country began at Mihintale during the reign of Devanampiyatissa. (250-210 BC)

On Unduvap Full Poya Day, there will be many thousand who will be engaged in Buddhist religions activities Dana, Seela, Bhavana in the vicinity of Jayasirimaha Bodhi and in various temples throughout the country.

Devotees flock to pay homage to the Bodhi very specially on the Full Moon Day of Unduvap, (December) in Anuradhapura, as it was on Unduvap Full Moon Poya Day, Sangamitta Theri, brought the Sacred Bodhi to Sri Lanka from India.

As true Buddhists let us follow the Pancha-Sila, on the Unduvap Full Moon Poya Day and abstain from destroying living beings, taking things not given, abstain from sexual misconduct and false speech, abstain from taking anything that causes intoxication or heedlessness.

Every Buddhist should observe these Five Precepts in order to elevate himself morally and spiritually.

I will wind this article from a quotation from late S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike, former Prime Minister of Sri Lanka.

Quote: Buddhism will last as long as the sun and moon last and the human race exists upon the earth,for it is the Religion of Man, of Humanity as a whole.

01 12 2009 - The Island

 

Journal

News

Letters

Books

Personalities History

Articles Index

 

J14.06   The Significance of Nikini Poya Day

Premasara Epasinghe

Nikini is the eighth Full Moon Poya of the year. In ancient India, even before the time of Buddha, all Poya Days had been kept as holy. The Buddhist adopted all religious activities and observances that were there earlier and followed on Poya Days. The Nikini Full Moon Poya Day is important as far as the Buddhist Order is concerned. Buddhist Monks and lay devotees perform an act, according to certain rules and regulations laid down by Gautama Buddha the “Great Mahapurisha“. The close association and the link that bind the Devotees and the Sangha, can be clearly seen on Poya Days.

After the Enlightened One preached his first sermon, DHAMMA CHAKKA PAVATTANA SUTRA the Wheel of Dhamma, to the five disciples, Kondanna, Bhaddiya, Vappa, Mahanama, Assaji, in the Deer Park , Isipathana, in Banares, he advised his disciples to spread the Buddhist Doctrine and the Message of Noble Dhamma to Mankind. Nikini Poya is connected with VAS- Rainy Season – which commence from Esala Poya. During the “VAS” season, Buddhist monks are assigned themselves to be stationed in one place, under one roof during.

According to the principles and rules laid down by the Blessed One, Buddhist monks are not expected to live outdoors, under the trees, in cemetries or open – air, commencing from Esala Poya, for four months.

VAS can be divided into two segments. “PERA – VAS” and “PASU – VAS” – namely Pre – Retreat and Post – Retreat. The period beginning with VASSANA is a colourful and eventful period. The dawn of the VAS season in the month of Nikini records a religious awakening among the lay devotees and it has a tremendous impact on their moral thinking.

After delivering the “Dhamma chaka pavattana sutta“, Gautama Buddha, observed the first recorded VAS – Rainy Retreat at Migadaya Deer Park Isipathanaramaya.

According to the climatic and weather conditions globally, there are four recorded seasons. The first season of the year, Autumn, when plants begin to grow, coming between Winter and Summer, is from March to May in the Northern Hemisphere. The Summer, the warmer season of the year outside topic comes between Spring and Autumn from June to August in the Northern Hemisphere. The third season of the year, coming between Summer and Winter, falls between September to November in the Northern Hemisphere. The last and the coldest season of the year, winter comes between Autumn and Spring, is from December to February in the Northern Hemisphere.

The month of Nikini comes with the South West Monsoon. If you analyze the seasonal wind in South Asia, especially in the Indian Ocean, blowing from South West from April to October and from North East from October to April, brings Rainfall.

The Thathagatha Gautama Buddha always appreciated constructive criticism. As the Buddhist Monks were earlier involved in religious activities and missionary during Rainy Season, there was a public cry against them in some quarters. The Thirthakas, followers of Jainism, protested, stating that the Buddhist Monks are not assigned to indoors during the Rainy Season and violating the age old rule. Buddha, then advised the Buddhist Monks to assign themselves to indoors. With this began the Vas season or period of Rainy Retreat.

Another important significant event that took palace on Nikini Full Moon Day was the holding of the First Sanga Council, led by Maha Kassapa, under the patronage of Ajasatta, at Rajagaha.

This important council was a landmark in history of Buddhism. Buddha in HIS eightieth year, on a Veask Full Moon Poya Day, attained Parinibbana. After the passing away of Buddha there were a large number of Bhikkus in the Sasana. There were some undesirable Monks, too, who joined the Buddhist Order, for worldly gains. With the exception of Arahats and those who achieved the state of Anagami, all others wept, cried in grief. There was one Bhikku by the name of Subaddha, a monk who joined the order in his old age. Bhikku Subaddha requested the mourners not to weep, but, be happy and rejoice, because, they are now free to do anything they want as the Master is not there. Further, this Bhikku Subhadda stated that Buddha had been an obstacle for their freedom.

It was Maha Kassapa Thera , who boldly took steps of conducting the First Sangha Council. Maha Theras such as Upali, Ananda, and Anurudda provided the fullest support to Venerable Maha Kassapa, the “Dharmabhandagarika” – (The Treasurer of Dhamma).

Ananda Maha Thero, who possessed a powerful retentive memory, played a leading part in the First Council. He attained Arahatship free from postures of sitting, standing walking or sleeping. Ananda Thero attained Arahatship at the night on the day before the First Dhamma Sangayanawa or Council. This council was held to arrest the deterioration of the Sasanaya and to discipline the Buddhist Order.

The lay devotees or Dayakas, invite the Maha Sangha to observe “Vas”, which can be considered as one of the most sacred events, (it is known as “Vas Aradhana Pinkama”), which ends with Katina Puja Pinkama. The lay devotees see to the comfort of the Buddhist monks with great respect and care. The Maha Sangha in return, shower their Blessings. The sight of Dhamma, undoubtedly excels all other sights. (Sabbha Dhanam Dhamma Dhanam Jinathi). They live indoors for nearly four months.

The advent of Buddhism to Sri Lanka took place during the reign of Devanampiyatissa with the establishment of, the Buddhist Order in Sri Lanka, the Sri Lankan Buddhist monk with a retinue of monks, observed the first Vas- Rainy Retreat in 68 rock caves at Mihintala Missaka Pabbhata. This took place during Nikini season.

On the Nikini Full Moon Day, lets’ recall that the Buddha, who was spending the 14th Rainy season, since His Enlightenement at “Devramvehera” in Sravastipura, giving advice on Meditation to the Reverend Rahula Thero- his son in his lay life, preached RAHULOVADA SUTTA to him and that the Reverend Thera, Rahula listening attentively attained Arahanthship at the end of the Discourse.

In the Buddhist Philosophy, transient are all conditioned things, when this, with wisdom, one discerns, then is one disgusted with ill; THIS IS THE PATH TO PURITY.

Sabbe Sankhara Anicca ti-

Yada Pannaya Passati-

Atha Nibbidati Dukkhe-

Esa Masso Visuddiya- Massa Vagga (Dhammapada- 277)

When with wisdom one discerns transience of conditioned things, one wearily from Dukkha turns Treading the Path to Purity.)

In Sri Lankan Buddhist history another important event that took place on a Nikini Full Moon Poya Day was the laying of the foundation stone for Seruwila Chaitya. Nikini Perehera at Seruwila Raja Maha Viharaya was also commenced on a Nikini Poya.

The Bellanwila Raja Maha Viharaya annual Perahera will be held during the month of Nikini, this year 2009. This will be one of the most important cultural pageants in Sri Lanka.

The Island

 

Journal

News

Letters

Books

Personalities History

Articles Index

J14.07   The purpose of life

P. S. Mahawatte

What is the purpose of life? This is a question that has baffled many a philosopher. Unlike the other philosophers, Prince Siddhartha went out to find the answer. After many years of struggle when he be came the Buddha, he found the answer. let us briefly acquaint ourselves with the early life of Prince Sidhartha who became the Enlightened One and found the answer to the purpose of life.

This is how Bhikku Nanamoli related the events. 'I was delicate, most delicate, supremely delicate. Lily pools were made for me at my father's house solely for my benefit. Blue lilies flowered in one, white lilies in another, red lilies in a third. I used no sandalwood that was not from Benares. My turban, tunic, lower garments and cloak were all made of Benares cloth. A white sunshade was held over me day and night so that no cold or heat or dust or grit or dew might inconvenience me. I had three palaces, one for the winter, one for the summer and one for the rains. In the rains palace I was entertained by minstrels with no men among them. For the four months of the rains, I never went down to the lower palaces.'

It should be remembered that all the famous astrologers in the kingdom were summoned by king Suddhodana, the prince's father to forecast the prince's future. The astrologers said that if he remains as a layman, he would become a King Emperor. If he renounces the world, he will become the Buddha.

All agreed that the latter was more likely. So the King took all possible steps to keep his son satisfied and happy, providing him with all possible entertainment and conveniences, so that the thought of renouncing the kingdom will not enter his mind. This description gives an idea as to the splendour and the luxurious life he had and renounced at the prime of his life at 29 years. To leave behind a beautiful wife and child and all these luxuries and as heir to the throne and go into homelessness, wearing just an ordinary yellow robe to protect against flies, mosquitoes and the cold is described as The Great Renunciation.

What was it that he wanted to find. He wanted the answer to why there is birth with all its sufferings, old age, sickness, grief and death and whether this continuing existence - sansara could be brought to an end.

At that time as of today, there were several religious sects and he sat under these teachers or gurus and practised all that they could teach and even reached proficiency of the gurus. But what he learnt did not satisfy him as the answer he was seeking was not forthcoming. All religious sects at that time and even today taught that God created everything including the animals and human beings and the purpose of life is to pray and join godhead after death. This of course did not appeal to our Bhodisatva.

There was one religious sect led by its leader Niganthanatha Putra or Maha Vira who believed that Mokshaya could be achieved only by giving a great deal of torture to the body. The bhodisatva probably wanted to try this theory also by subjecting his body to self torture in the hope that this will reveal the answer he was looking for.

The suttas tell us that he subjected his body to such self mortification that no other human being could have endured. It was his iron will that enabled him to endure such self mortification and he was almost at the death's door when he realized that self mortification like self indulgence will not provide the answer to his search. He abandoned self torture - Athhakilamathanayogo in the same way he abandoned Kamasukalikanayogo - self indulgence as not the ways to find the answer he was seeking and decided on Madyamaprathipada - the Middle Path.

A lesser person would have abandoned his search and returned to his kingdom. But not the Bodhisatva. Instead, with renewed determination and iron will, he sat under a tree which later came to be venerated as the Bodhi Tree, with the resolve, never to get up until he find the answer to the cause of birth and suffering, even if he were to die in this final attempt. On a Vesak Full Moon Day, 2500 years ago, He discovered the Truth that He was seeking and attained Enlightenment and came to be known as the Gauthama Buddha or Samma Sambuddha.

What did the Buddha discover. He discovered the Four Noble Truths - that there is suffering; the cause of suffering; that suffering could be brought to an end and the Path leading to the extinction of suffering - The Noble Eightfold Path. The purpose of life, therefore, is to travel the Nobel Eightfold Path and bring to an end this 'farcical' existence - sansara.

Before anyone undertakes a journey, he should have some idea as to where he wants to go and why. Those who wish to embark on the Noble Eightfold Path too should have a clear vision of the destination. This is why, Buddha laid down as the first step, that the traveller should have Samma Dhitti - the clear vision of the existence of Dhukka and Samma Sankappa the firm determination - Vithakka to proceed along the Path until Nirvana the extinction of suffering is achieved.

Extinction of suffering as explained by the Samma Sambuddha is the purpose of life.

20 08 2003 - Daily News

 

Journal

News

Letters

Books

Personalities History

Articles Index

J14.08   Psychological aspects of Jathaka stories

Dr. Ruwan M. Jayatunge

Stories are part of a human environment. Human beings have probably been telling stories since the very early days of our civilisation. Buddhist Jathaka stories are unique. The Jataka stories are a voluminous body of folklore concerned with previous births of the Buddha which is based as a collection of five hundred and fifty stories.

According to archaeological and literary evidence the Jataka stories were compiled in the period, the 3rd Century B.C. to the 5th Century A.D. The Khuddaka Nikaya contains 550 stories the Buddha told of his previous lifetimes as an aspiring Bodhisatta.

Literally, the 'Buddha' means "one who has attained Enlightenment." As the Jatakas describe a kaleidoscopic view of the journey of the Bodhisatta undergoing several stages of birth or junctions to become a Buddha the Enlightened one. The central character of every Jataka story is the Bodhisatta. A Bodhisatta is one who seeks to attain the Enlightenment.

Bodhisatta seeks to develop the unique qualifications of the Buddhahood and strives for ten perfections namely charity, right-conduct, dispassionateness, wisdom, steadfastness, forbearance, truthfulness, pledge, loving compassion and non-attachability. The struggle for the ten perfections in various births of Bodhisatta is rather the main theme of the Jataka stories.

Jataka storyteller

The Jataka stories deeply analyse the human mind. It contains a profound psychological content. The renowned Sri Lankan writer Martin Wickramasinghe once said Psychoanalysis was not initiated by Freud but by the Jataka storyteller.

Portrayal of Seggu Jathaka

Because the Jataka story teller revealed and analysed the noble to ignoble characteristics of the human psyche. The Jataka storyteller knew the complexity of the human mind. He described the human behaviour in vivid situations. The Jataka stories represent a broad structure of mental phenomena.

According to Professor Rhys Davids Jataka stories are one of the oldest fables. Consultant Psychiatrist Dr. D.V.J. Harishchandra, in his famous book Psychiatric Aspects of Jataka Stories, points out that the Western psychologists should study the essence of mind analysis in Jataka Stories.

Because it gives a wider understanding especially existential and moralistic dimensions of human nature, which is not broadly discussed in the Western Psychology.

Sigmund Freud explained the common features of neurosis. Mental and emotional disorder that affects only part of the personality is accompanied by a less distorted perception of reality than in a psychosis, and is characterised by various physiological and mental disturbances.

The neuroses include anxiety attacks, certain forms of depression hypochondriasis hysterical reactions, obsessive compulsive disorders, phobias various sexual dysfunctions and some tics.

They have traditionally been thought to be based on emotional conflict in which a blocked impulse seeks expression in a disguised response or symptom. The suffering which is carried by the neurotic is mainly based on his thinking pattern. Neurotic behaviour is due to overwhelming stress and anxiety. This can lead to hysteria type of reactions.

Hysteria type

In the Jataka stories there are numerous characters who have displayed hysteria type of reactions. For instance in the Maranabheruka Jathaka one monk shows a post-traumatic reaction.

This monk displays extreme fear, hyper-arousal, avoidance, frightful mental pictures (flashbacks?) and emotional anesthesis. The clinical picture given in the Maranabheruka Jathaka much similar to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

PTSD is an anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal in which grave physical harm occurred or was threatened. People with PTSD have persistent frightening thoughts and memories of their ordeal and feel emotionally numb. They may experience sleep problems, feel detached or numb, or be easily startled.

Pathological jealousy had been described in the Jathaka stories. Jealousy is a universal feeling. The feeling is normal until it is acted upon and the behaviour or actions become irrational. Jealousy does not have boundaries. It penetrates all social positions, intellectual levels, ages, races and economic strata.

Chulla Darmapala Jathaka reveals the sexual jealousy. In this story King Prathapa became extreme angry when his queen cuddled the infant son without taking any notice of him. The angry King Prathapa orders to kill the infant.

Jealousy

Jealousy is a complex human emotion that is provoked by a perceived threat to an exclusive dyadic relationship (Daly & Wilson, 1983).

Although the emotional experience of jealousy may involve varying degrees of sadness, anger, and anxiety, many psychologists have defined it globally as the sense of "distress" or "discomfort" experienced over a partner's real or imagined involvement with another (Clanton & Smith, 1977;).

Jealousy can occur in any type of relationship, but it is most commonly associated with romantic relationships. Here the King Prathapa's emotion was anger and as a result of rage he killed his own son.

Gynocophobia

According to Asanaga Jathaka Prince Asanaga dislikes and fear of women. Prince Asanaga's character could be described as a person with Gynocophobia. A phobia is an irrational, persistent fear of certain situations, objects, activities, or persons.

The main symptom is excessive, unreasonable desire to avoid the feared subject. The prince Asanaga had marked an persistent fear that was excessive and unreasonable, cued by the presence or anticipation of women.

Exposure to company of women invariably provoked an immediate anxiety response. The avoidance, anxious anticipation, and distress in the feared situations interfered significantly with his normal routine, social activities and relationships.

The eminent Sri Lankan writer Martin Wickramasinghe sees the similarity between Asthramanthra Jathaka and Dostoyevsky's novel The Brothers Karamazov, which is a tale of bitter family rivalries.

The Brothers Karamazov, was written on two levels: on the surface it is the story of a parricide in which all of a murdered man's sons share varying degrees of complicity, but on a deeper level, it is a spiritual drama of the moral struggles between faith, doubt, reason, and free will.

In this novel Dostoevsky specifically questions whether good and evil can exist in a world in which there is no God. The old landowner in The Brothers Karamazov and the old woman in Asthramantha Jathaka have similar characteristics with regard to immoral behaviour.

In Maha Palohana Jathaka the Prince Annithagantha suffers from hypoactive sexual desire disorder. Prince Annithagantha had absence of sexual fantasies and desire for sexual activity.

Pathological gambling

Portrayal of Ummagga Jathaka

He was given a treatment which was some what similar to modern day sex therapy by Masters and Johnson. Masters and Johnson pioneering research team in the field of human sexuality. They emphasised social and cognitive causes of sexual dysfunction.

Thakari Jathaka tells about a young man named Thundila who shows positive psychological features of pathological gambling. Forms of gambling are recorded through the ages and across cultures.

Pathologic gambling" and "gambling addiction" are terms used to describe gambling related behaviours. Suicide attempts, felony convictions, spouse and child abuse, and unemployment are common in pathologic gamblers.

Evidence points to the common existence of narcissistic personality characteristics and impulse control problems in pathologic gamblers. Thundila the gambler shows most of the above mentioned features.

Sadism

In Khanthivadi Jathaka King Kalabu, a sadist, derives satisfaction touring a hermit. The essential feature of sadism is a feeling of excitement resulting from administering pain, suffering, or humiliation to another person.

The pain, suffering, or humiliation inflicted on the other is real; it is not imagined and may be either physical or psychological in nature. Khanthivadi hermit bears the torture without losing his temper. Although his limbs were cut still the Khanthivadi hermit harbours no anger with the King Kalabu.

The type of reaction displayed by Khanthivadi hermit is less described in the Western Psychology may be due to the semitic influence. Also Hamurabi's code of law promotes an eye for an eye. Even Sigmund Freud could have found it difficult to understand the hermit's reaction of non violence.

Non violence

This is what Gandhi says about non violence. "The religion of non violence is not meant merely for the rishis and saints. It is meant for the common people as well. Non violence is the law of our species as violence is the law of the brute.

The spirit lies dormant in the brute and he knows no law but that of physical might. The dignity of man requires obedience to a higher law-to the strength of the spirit. Non violence is the law of the human race and is infinitely greater than and superior to brute force".

Freud described that savage part of the human nature. Similarly in the Jathaka stories the dark side of the human mind is revealed. In Suthasoma Jathaka Porisada, the cannibal shows series of antisocial personality traits.

Antisocial personality disorder is a psychiatric condition characterized by chronic behaviour that manipulates, exploits, or violates the rights of others. This behaviour is often criminal. In this story Porisada was reformed by Bodhisatta.

In the Ummagga Jathaka the storyteller shows the power of wisdom. The King Vedeha's young advisor Mahaushada Pandit launched a series of psychological operations (Psychological Operations are techniques used by military to influence a target audience's emotional motive objective reasoning, and behaviour. This concept has been used by military institutions throughout history) in the battle which led to a giant victory.

Assaka Jathaka describes about a King who suffered from pathological grief after his queen's death. Pathological grief is an abnormal response to loss events. Many varieties of pathological grief have been noted in Jathaka stories.

Persons with a preloss combination of both contradictions in relational schemas about the deceased and tendencies toward excessive control to stifle unwanted affect will tend to have unsuccessful processes of mourning.

Other forms of "pathological grief" occur when the original grief is not felt; when it is suppressed or delayed. In this story the King's emotions associated with the loss find expression through inappropriate channels and it has been vividly described the Jathaka storyteller.

Death is a universal phenomenon. Sujatha Jhathaka discusses the meaning of death in existential view. Death is the irredeemable loss of consciousness. The existential level is organised around life on earth itself and social, cultural and spiritual ramifications of it, that is, the "human condition".

People's existential issues are related to their mortality and impermanence, their experience of freedom of choice their sense of worthiness, and their sense of separation/connection with others. Work at this level is to loosen the rigidity of the self image, to expand the relationship to the sacred, and to integrate one's relationship with death.

Dadara Jathaka reveals a monk with an Intermittent Explosive Disorder. Intermittent Explosive Disorder falls in the category of Impulse-Control Disorders.

The condition is characterised by failure to resist aggressive impulses, resulting in serious assaults or property destruction. In Dadara Jathaka this monk is easily provoked and goes into violent impulsive tantrums. Later this monk was healed by the Bodhisatta.

Piousness

Jean Baptiste Poquelin Moliere - French actor and playwright; considered the greatest writer of comedy wrote the famous story Tartuffe, a religious hypocrite, tries to get title to his friend's estate by sending him to jail. So effective was Moliere's satire, that the word Tartuffe has become part of the English language.

The con man by the name of Tartuffe pretends piousness and deceives a well-to-do gentleman named Orgon. Tartuffe tries to seduce Orgon's wife, Elmire, and gets Orgon to sign over to him all of his property. Moliere was influenced by a specific story from the Jathaka stories.

This story is called Somanassa Jathaka. In Somanassa Jathaka hypocrite hermit has double standards. He is deceptive and pretends that he has morals and acts like Moliere's Tartuffe.

Martin Wicramasinghe says there is much similarity between Voltaire's Candide and Dhitthi Mangalika from Jathaka stories. Dhitthi Mangalika was a beautiful girl from a high cast.

When she meets Marthanga Pandit of a lower cast at the street she turns back thinking that he was a bad omen. Then the servants of Dhitthi Mangalika assaults Marthanga Pandit.

Mental Disorders

With pain and humiliation Marthanga Pandit launches a hunger strike until he was given Dhitthi Mangalika as his wife. Eventually her parents agreed to give Dhitthi Mangalika the beautiful high cast girl to Marthanga Pandit to resolve the crisis.

Voltaire wrote "Candide against the tenets of the then-eminent German philosopher Leibniz, who claimed that mankind lives in the best of possible worlds.

Voltaire tried to dismantle this notion, and thus created Candide. The Bantam Classic edition offers a highly informative forward by Andre Maurois, with caustic wit and hyperbole.

The Tale of Candide begins in Westphalia, from which young, naive and gullible Candid is forced to flee. A disciple of his tutor, Pangloss, Candide explains his misfortunes and those of others, determined to find links between cause-and-effect.

Thus the Jhathaka stories discuss the wide rang of human psychological problems. Most of the DSM (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders which is a guide to the diagnosis of mental disorders in the United States) illnesses are described in here. Also it gives a profound philosophy which is everlasting. The Western world should carefully study this priceless piece of work.

    Picture courtesy: Psychiatric Aspects of Jataka Stories by Dr. D V J Harischandra 

Journal

News

Letters

Books

Personalities History

Articles Index

J14.09   Vesak Full Moon Poya day: The saga of the Buddhahood

On the Vesak full moon poya day two thousand six hundred and one years ago the last birth of Bodhisattva took place at Lumbini Royal park. His mother was Queen Maha Maya and King Suddhodhana of the kingdom of Kapilawasthu was his father. The queen was on her way to her parental place at Devdaha with a mass of followers to deliver her first child as was customary and when she was resting at the Royal Park, Lumbini holding a branch of a fully blossomed Sal tree Bodhisattva was born. It is said that the new born child had walked on seven Lotus flowers which emerged suddenly before him. King Suddhodhana’s teacher, saint Asitha of Kaladewala who visited the palace on the same day asserted that the blessed prince was to be the saviour of the universe and the teacher of every one in all the three worlds.

First Salutation by the Father
The saint who had developed his meditation skills envisaged that he was due to die before the Enlightenment of the Bodhisattva, worshipped the new born prince. The king who watched the behaviour of his teacher realised that his son was superior to the saint and himself worshipped the Bodhisattva.
The prince was brought up in the royal palace in the lap of luxury leaving no room for him to realise the vanity of the worldly life. The king was anxious to see his son becoming the Universal King as envisaged by the learned Brahmin at the naming ceremony. The king’s endeavour was to prevent the Bodhisattva from leaving the worldly life to attain Buddha hood in keeping with the words of saint Kondanna who raised one finger and said that the prince was sure to attain the Buddha hood.   

Renunciation
In spite of all precautionary measures taken by the king the prince came into direct contact with the stark realities of life, “Sathara Pera Nimithi” – a sick man, a decrepit old man, a corpse and a monk and he was determined to become an ascetic. At the age of twenty nine years he renounced the worldly life leaving the royal family including his wife, princess Yasodhara and the new born son, Rahula. He strived for seven years and made a firm determination to attain his goal, Buddha hood. 

Strict asceticism
In ancient India great importance was attached to rites, ceremonies, penances and sacrifices. It was then a popular belief that no salvation could be gained unless one led a life of strict asceticism. Hence for six long years he made a super human struggle practising all forms of severe austerity with the result that his delicate body was reduced almost to a skeleton. The more he tormented his body the farther his goal receded from him.

Majjima Pati Pada – Middle Path
However, ultimately he realised the futility of self- mortification and adopted an independent course –Majjima Patipada – the Middle Path. He decided to take some food. The five ascetics who attended on him, being disappointed at this unexpected change of method, deserted him and went to Isipatana, saying that “the ascetic Gothama had become indulgent, had ceased from straving and returned to a life of comfort. However, Bodhisattva was not discouraged. After taking some food offered to him by a generous lady named Sujatha he made a firm resolve not to rise from his seat under the sacred Bo tree until he attained Buddha hood.  

Enlightenment
One happy Vesak night, as he was seated under the famous Pippala tree at Buddha Gaya, with mind tranquilized and purified, in the first watch he developed that supernormal knowledge which enabled him to remember his past lives – Pubbenivasanussati Gnana Reminiscence of Past births. In the middle watch he developed the clairvoyant supernormal vision dealing with the death and rebirth of beings Cutupapata Gnana- perception of the disappearing and reappearing of Beings. In the last watch of the night he developed the supernormal knowledge with regard to the destruction of passions- Asavakkhaya Gnana, and comprehending things as they truly are, attained Perfect Enlightenment- Samma Sambodhi

Saviour of every one in the universe
He devoted the remainder of that precious life to serve humanity both by example and precept, dominated by no personal motive. Buddha was a human being. As a man he was born, as man he lived and as a man His life came to an end. However, He was an extraordinary man. He had no deitification. He taught His disciples to depend on themselves for their salvation. “You yourselves should make the exertion. The Thathagathas are only teachers” He said. The Enlightened One has pointed out the path and it is left for us to follow that path to save ourselves.

Parinibbana
At the age of eighty years, three months before the Vesak Full Moon day Gautama Buddha determined the term of life. 
On one occasion He summoned His disciples and addressed them. In His address he said that all component things are transient and advised them to strive on with diligence. “After the lapse of three months from now the Accomplished One will attain Parinibbana. Be mindful and virtuous. With thoughts collected, guard your mind. He who lives strenuously in this Dispensation will escape the cycle of rebirth and put an end to suffering”  
Gauthama Buddha had His last meal offered to Him by a generous lady named Sujatha. He rested on the couch placed between two Sala trees in the Upavattana Sala grove and attained Parinibbana on a Vesak Full moon poya day.   

Niyatha Vivaranaya- Positive Explanation of assurance of becoming Buddha
“Niyatha Vivaranaya” -Positive explanation of assurance of becoming Buddha was given to Gauthama Bodhisattva for the first time by Deepankara Buddha on a Vesak Full moon poya day. Bodhisattva was born as ascetic Sumedha in that life. The road was being repaired for the Buddha to pass that place. Ascetic Sumedha was among those who were preparing and decorating the road. He was expected to clean the road in a muddy area. Buddha came before ascetic Sumedha could clear the road. Ascetic Sumedha did not want the Buddha to walk on the muddy road and he lay down on the muddy road desiring the Buddha to walk on him. His decision was so deep and sincere that Deepankara Buddha gave the positive assurance of attaining Buddha hood.

Buddha’s third visit to Sri Lanka
Buddha’s third visit to Sri Lanka was also taken place on a Vesak Full Moon poya day. Buddha visited Kelaniya at the invitation of Naga King Maniakkhika of Kelaniya. This invitation was made when Buddha visited Sri Lanka for the second occasion to quell a dispute between two Naga kings, Chulodara and Mahodara at Nagadeepa. This took place on a Vesak full moon day.

Invitation by God Sumana Saman to visit Sri Pada
God Sumana Saman who brought the Kiripalu tree from Seveth Nuwara Devram vehera to provide shelter to the Buddha during His second visit to Sri Lanka had accompanied Him to Lanka during His third visit also. On his invitation Buddha proceeded to Samanthakuta where He placed His foot print which remains in full sanctity and is being worshipped by us with faith and devotion. In Salalihini Sandesaya a mention is made about the place in Kelani Ganga where the ablution functions of the Enlightened One had taken place. Naga King Maniakkhika had offered a gem seat to the Buddha and it is believed that gem seat is treasured in the Dagaba at Kelaniya. Kelani Dagaba, Bo tree and various places in Anuradhapura remind us of he Buddha’s third visit to Sri Lanka.  

Origin of the Sinhala Community
Further more it was on a Vesak full moon poya day that Prince Vijaya came to Sri Lanka with his followers. Hence, this day is regarded as the day of the origin of the Sinhala community. According to the chronicles the eldest son of King Sinha Bahu, the then ruler of Latarata in India and Sinhaseewalee had come to Lanka on a Vesak Full Moon Poya day. Prince Vijaya and his followers, seven hundred in number had disembarked at Thammanna. A coincidence is that Vijaya had set foot on Lanka, land of Yakkha clan who was presumably the ruler of that part of the country had fallen in love with Vijaya and had offered him the throne with the hope of occupying the position of the queen. Vijaya was thus enthroned as the first king of Lanka.  Sinhabahu and Sinhaseewalee had thirty two children, all twins and that Vijaya was the eldest of them. Vijaya had been deported as he was disobedient to his parents. This disobedient son together with seven hundred followers disembarked at Thambapanni where they met Kuveni.      

An International Religious day
At the instigation of the late Foreign minister, Laksman Kadirgarmar Vesak Full Moon Poya day has been declared as an international religious day. This was done because it is the most important day for Buddhists throughout the world. 
To mark the religious, social and cultural importance of this day, people world or engage in both Amisa Puja and Prathiptti puja. 

07 05 2012 - Daily Mirror

 

Journal

News

Letters

Books

Personalities History

Articles Index

J14.10   A Buddhist Point of View regarding the Failure of Capitalism

Prof. N.A.deS. Amaratunga
 

The economy in the developed countries, particularly in the West, seems to be in deep crisis and its repercussions are felt world wide. Some say this is due to poor management and wrong government policy. Others say there is an intrinsic fault in capitalism which needs to be dismantled if a solution is to be found (R.A.Postner, P.Mattick). Some Sri Lankan commentators too do not see the evil in capitalism (R.M.B.Senanayaka). There are yet others who say a lot of pent up greed had been released in the Western culture and this is the cause of the present crisis (J.Sachs). Though the West seems to have finally realised the ill effect of human greed their understanding of this phenomenon and its ramifications are superficial to be of any benefit to the world. They haven’t understood for instance that greed is not the effect but the cause of capitalism and that the other two major defilements mentioned in Buddhism, hatred and delusion, are also causative factors in the genesis and growth of capitalism. Therefore the Buddhist point of view in this regard has to be taken into consideration.

 

First let us look at what Richard Posner and Paul Mattick have to say about this matter for they are not ordinary commentators. Posner is one of the most respected judges in the US, famous for his advocacy of free-market. Posner was at one time considered the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s successor as the country’s leading proponent of free-market capitalism. In his book titled "Failure of Capitalism", however, he calls for the development of alternatives to capitalism. His thesis is not that government, politicians or bankers primarily caused the depression, but rather that the capitalist system is to blame for its own fault. He says quite categorically "the financial crisis is indeed a crisis of capitalism rather than a failure of government".
 

Paul Mattic’s book titled "Business As Usual – The Economic Crisis and The Failure of Capitalism" has been acclaimed as the best written about the present crisis. He has shown in lucid style that the problem of capitalism is intrinsic and could be historically traced back to the post World War II period. He proves that the recurrent depressions are due to the pursuit of growth by means of profit. He also focuses on the looming environmental crisis that overshadows everything. The solution he says would be to move away from production for profit and to move towards the pursuit of human ends.
 

Now let us take a brief look at the growth of capitalism and its many evils in order to clearly understand the role of greed, hatred and delusion in this process. Capitalism at its beginning in the 16th century had received a spiritual endorsement for the disparity between the rich and the poor. The Puritan Ethic which formed the basis for the early spirit of capitalism justified economic inequality among people on the grounds that the wealthy were also the virtuous! Credit (or blame?) could be given to Reformers like John Calvin for this Ethic which was one of the main contributory factors for the rapid advancement of capitalism at the beginning. In the Ethic encouraged by the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century, traditional disdain for acquisitive effort was diminished. Max Weber has analyzed this phenomenon in his work titled "The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism" published in 1904. Weber concluded that traditional religions had a restraining influence on economic development. He says Europe was freed from restrictive Christian traditionalism by reinterpretation of Protestant prophecy. The fact that these reinterpretations saw the wealthy as more virtuous compared to the poor cannot be justified before the altar of Jesus Christ’s preaching which exhorted equality and had not seen the poor as less virtuous.
 

The ideology of classical capitalism was expressed in Adam Smith’s "Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations" published in 1776 which recommended leaving economic decisions to the free play of self regulating market forces, and also free trade and minimum levels of poor relief. Division of labour and technological advancement was recommended as measures to reduce labour costs. These measures have rendered the worker, in Adam Smith’s own words, "as stupid and ignorant as it is possible for a human creature to become".
 

The basic tenet of capitalism is production for profit and all aspects of production and profit making are supposed to be governed by free market forces. It could be shown that these market forces are not entirely free but are manipulated to ensure a flow of wealth from the poor to the rich. It is claimed that the disparity between the rich and the poor had always been there from the time of feudal societies. But the point here is instead of rectifying that anomaly, capitalism has made it worse. The trend continues causing havoc in the lives of the people if one was to go by the "Occupy Wall Street" demonstrations. It is also claimed that the rich had got richer not at the expense of the poor. If there had been equitable distribution of the wealth that capitalism produced, it would not have caused the poverty that the people in the rich countries experience today. Capitalism is not geared to bring about a fair distribution of the wealth it creates. In 1986 the lowest 20% of income earners in the USA received only 4.6% of the national income while the top 20% got 43.7%. This disparity is much worse today as proclaimed by the Wall Street occupiers. This sad state of affairs is not brought about by free market forces but by design.

 

Imperialism, the wars and the lack of peace in the world could all be the results of rampant capitalism practiced by the rapacious West. John Hobson in his work titled "Imperialism, a study" (1902) has said that financial interest of the capitalist class was the "governor of the imperial engine". Lenin has said imperialism is the inevitable highest stage of capitalism (see Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism-1917) He has further said that imperialism and militarism and the resultant wars were a natural outcome of capitalism. The congested capital which could not be consumed by its producers, the workers, had to be exported to new territories by several means - political, social, cultural, psychological and last but not least warfare. According to Lenin competitive capitalism was replaced by monopoly capitalism, a more advanced stage in which finance capital, an alliance between large industrial and banking firms, dominates the economic and political life of society.
 

Joseph Alois Schumpeter, one of the best known economists in the first half of the 20th century stated that at the root of imperialism is a persistent tendency to war and conquest and this tendency is sustained and conditioned by the domestic interests of individuals who have most to gain economically. He argued that monopoly capitalism can only grow and prosper under the protection of high tariff walls without which there would be no cartels or other monopolistic arrangements. Even today there are trade barriers in the developed countries against finished products of the poor countries which force them to export raw materials and discourage them from venturing into industrialization.
 

Thus what we have, instead of a free market, is a manipulated monopolistic market designed to ensure the flow of wealth from the poor to the rich, from the underdeveloped countries to the imperialist countries. Thus there is no economic freedom for the poor countries as well as the poor people in the rich countries. Further there is no economic security for the working people in the poor as well as the rich countries.
 

Finances in the capitalist society is managed in such a way that when there is an economic boom the benefits largely accrue to the rich and at times of economic recession however, the hardships are largely shifted to the poor. In recession the executives seldom take salary cuts but instead the workers are retrenched as a routine practice. In the recent economic crisis in the USA it was found that 87% of employees who lost their jobs were from the lowest salary earners. Executives who drew salaries 50 – 100 times more than these workers neither lost their jobs nor took a salary cut.
 

When the large majority of people live under these circumstances it is meaningless to say that there is total freedom in capitalist societies. What meaningful benefit could accrue to the people due to this freedom? What is the use of freedom of expression when there is no dignity that comes from secure employment?
 

Jeffry Sachs one of America’s best known economists has commented on greed in his new book; ‘"Price of Civilization…". He says lot of pent up greed has been released in the American society resulting in harmful consumerism. People are busy shopping, eating junk, watching TV and such other harmful activity. Obesity, mental illness, crime, violence, sex orgies are the result of these activities. What Sachs and other like minded commentators say is that it is capitalism that has caused this excessive greed. Therefore corrective measures have to be taken in relation to capitalism.

 

From the Buddhist point of view, however, it is human greed which is the primary causative factor and not capitalism. Capitalism is the effect rather than the cause. Western thinkers say the opposite; capitalism is the cause and greed is the result. This is a misconception and solutions based on it are bound to fail. Marxism which was an alternative to capitalism failed because the basic fault had not been identified. Human greed is not a secondary character that comes to occupy the mind due to environmental factors. Rather it is a primary feature that is entrenched in the consciousness (vignana) which according to Buddhism needs to be got rid of to achieve enlightenment.
 

According to Buddhism all man made evil has its origin in delusion (moha) which could be defined as lack of perception of the true nature of life and matter. The fact that life and matter have no self and permanency and therefore attachment to such things could only bring sorrow (dukkha) is the true nature of the world. The lack of this understanding results in attachment to physical and mental phenomena. Thus the greed for, and the attachment to, arise not only for sense pleasures, wealth and power, but also for ideals, theories and conceptions. Greed has one force as its effect - the force to continue. Greed that cannot be satisfied or contained is the result. The acquisitive culture that is seen in the world at present is the result of this force.
 

"According to Buddha’s analysis all the troubles and strife in the world, from little personal quarrels to great wars arise out of greed (Majjhima nikaya). From this point of view all economic political and social problems are rooted in this selfish greed" (Walpola Rahula). Hatred (dvesha) which is defined in Buddhism as the wish to eliminate what one does not like or agree with, and which is part of human consciousness is also brought forth and becomes a force that drives capitalism. When there is competition among powerful countries for markets, resources and exports hatred that dwells in the consciousness comes to the surface and conflict results. Capitalists would like to eliminate socialists and vice versa. Thus delusion, greed and hatred, (loba, dvesha, moha), the three major defilements that need to be got rid of to achieve enlightenment, are in operation in the pursuance and propagation of capitalism.
 

Greed, hatred, and delusion have a special place and importance in Buddhist philosophy. They are not minor thoughts that come to mind due to the influence of external factors. But they are components of consciousness (vignana) which is one of the five ‘skandas’ (rupa,vedana,sangna, sankara, vignana) that form the human being. According to Buddhism there are four planes of consciousness, three of these are mundane; the sense sphere, the fine material sphere, and the immaterial sphere; the fourth plane is the supramundane. Consciousness rooted in greed, hatred and delusion are unwholesome ‘cittas’ that belong and occur in the sense-sphere. Therefore greed, hatred and delusion are the most powerful and dominant of the unwholesome ‘cittas’. They are not the result of capitalism but are its cause and have to be got rid of if the ills of capitalism are to be eradicated.
 

Buddha did not advise the removal of the material world from the six senses of the being as a solution to the problem. Rather he advocated the development of a detached attitude towards the temptations of the material world. The major part of his preaching, the way of life he showed by example and the ‘sanga samajaya’ he developed were aimed at producing a detached person and consequently a detached society. This dhamma is more relevant to the world today than at any other time, engulfed as it is in an all consuming capitalism with all its evils grown to their zenith.

 

17 06 2012 - Sunday Island

 

Journal

News

Letters

Books

Personalities History

Articles Index

J14.11   The existence of objects

Nalin de Silva

 

Mr. Upali Gamakumara referring to what he calls my reply to Prof. Carlo Fonseka states that an average person may go haywire reading it. It may be so as the average person has been taught by the western educational system to think in a particular way which has become the so called standard way today. However, Mr. Gamakumara says that sometimes he values my ideas and I am thankful to him for his compliment. In any event I was only responding to Prof. Fonseka’s article with some questions. Basically Mr. Gamakumara queries my views on existence of "objects" and says if we do not "accept the existence of particles or objects, then all what Buddha has preached on ‘good’ and ‘bad’ becomes null and void". In order to answer the queries of Mr. Gamakumara it is necessary to give a summary of my philosophy which is based on Buddhism.
 

The materialists starting with the Greeks in the west, and the Dravyavadins in Bharat, in general attempted to reduce all phenomena to a materialist base. The Buddhist idealists in the form of Vinnavadins and the Greek idealists on the other hand wanted to show that the mind was supreme, and that the so called material world was the creation of the mind. We present a different approach, where the world as an observer "sees" is created by the observer due to avidya of anicca, dukka and anatta which could be "roughly translated" as ignorance of impermanence, suffering and soullessness.
 

We begin with the Theravada view that the "world" is anicca, dukka, anatta and sunya. However anicca and anatta are not concepts, and as such it is futile to attempt to translate them into English or any other language. Even in Pali they should be considered as non concepts that defy explanation using concepts or other words. Though the "world" is anicca, dukka, anatta and sunya, unlike in Madhyamikavada, sunya is not elevated to a concept with sunyata coming into the picture as a noun.
 

When it is said that anicca, dukka, anatta and sunya are not concepts it means that they cannot be grasped by the mind either in terms of other concepts or directly as an image formed in the mind. There are no perceptions of them and there are no citta rupa associated with them. Anicca should not be considered as non permanence, as while the latter is a concept that the mind can grasp, the former cannot be known by the mind. If "one" "grasps", anicca, dukka, anatta then "one" attains Nibbana, and it is clear that knowing non permanence of "objects" is not sufficient to attain Nibbana.
 

There are two concepts that are important in any discussion on epistemology and ontology. Epistemology deals with knowledge while ontology is on existence. Though there are two branches called epistemology and ontology in western Philosophy, they are interwoven. The existence is not independent of knowledge of existence, in contrast to one of the ideas expressed on existence in western materialistic Philosophy. Does the world exist independent of the mind? Or is there a world independent of the mind? The answers to these questions also have to be considered as knowledge, if we are to build a theory of existence. The ontology is not independent of knowledge and theory of knowledge.
 

Whatever the answers given to the above questions, they are finally constructions of the mind. Nobody has ever found a way of expressing that the world exists independent of the mind, without finally getting the mind involved. Even if one is of the opinion that the world exists independent of the mind, one has to express that in words, and words are nothing but constructions of the mind. There is no way of expressing that the world exists independent of the mind, without involving the mind. Thus there is no Cartesian wall, as the existence of a world (observed) on the other side of the wall itself is a statement by an observer who has a mind.
 

One could say that it is the statement of a fact. However, the question arises as to how does one know that it is a fact. There are no facts by themselves. The so-called facts have to be known even if words are not used. It is not essential that knowledge has to be expressed in words. However, knowledge has to be known, even if with the use of images, which we call citta rupa, and images are associated with the mind. Thus there is no knowledge without mind, and the existence of something without knowing is unimaginable.
 

One could object to the above and say there are so many millions in the world who have no knowledge of the existence of far away galaxies whose existence cannot be doubted. Also it could be pointed out that just seventy five years ago nobody in the western world knew anything about the other galaxies but they had been in existence for millions of years. Thus it could be argued that the objects could exist without them being known to anybody in the universe. However, this is a statement by an observer living today, and not a statement of an observer who lived millions of years ago. It is the knowledge of an observer of the twenty first century, who argues or extrapolates that the universe had been in existence for millions of years. What the present observer says is that the objects he identifies as galaxies had been in "existence" in what he identifies as space and time, in the Newtonian picture, or that the galaxies had modified the space-time for so many millions of years, if he believes in Einstein. The statements which appear to be objective are not so, as any statement made today is an utterance by an observer living in the twenty first century. What are identified as galaxies, perhaps together with some other "objects", could have been identified as something else, if our five sense organs and/or the mind (in Buddhism mind is also identified as a sense organ) had different "forms" from what we have now. Even if the five sense organs have remained the same for millions of years from the point of view of an "average’ person living in the twenty first century, the way people think has differed from culture to culture and from time to time.
 

We argue that the world is nothing but the creation of the observer, and that the world is the same as the knowledge of the world of the observer. In the present approach it is not assumed that a world exits independent of the observer who attempts to know or gather "information" of an already existing world. The observer creates knowledge of the "world", and hence the "world" is relative to the sense organs, mind and the culture of the observer. The knowledge is thus created by the mind with the aid of the other sense organs. There is no knowledge or world, before such knowledge of the world is created, and the knowledge is created as concepts theories etc., by the observer. Thus the so called world is the conceptual and theoretical world of the observer that has been created by the mind. It should be noted that the concepts need not be in the form of words, as images formed in the mind (citta rupa) are also considered as concepts.
 

We argue that the world is nothing but the creation of the observer, and that the world is the same as the knowledge of the world of the observer. In the present approach it is not assumed that a world exits independent of the observer who attempts to know or gather "information" of an already existing world. The observer creates knowledge of the "world", and hence the "world" is relative to the sense organs, mind and the culture of the observer. The knowledge is thus created by the mind with the aid of the other sense organs. There is no knowledge or world, before such knowledge of the world is created, and the knowledge is created as concepts theories etc., by the observer. Thus the so called world is the conceptual and theoretical world of the observer that has been created by the mind. It should be noted that the concepts need not be in the form of words, as images formed in the mind (citta rupa) are also considered as concepts.

01 08 2012 - The Island

 

Journal

News

Letters

Books

Personalities History

Articles Index

J14.12   War-like situation, peace and Buddhism

 

Ven. Dr. Beligalle Dhammajoti

 

University of Ruhuna

We have been experiencing a vast progress in science and technology, which paved the way for the arising of politically powerful nations. As a consequence of mechanical revolution, capitalistic civilization spread all over the world. Here, the emphasis is paid only about the ills of a Capitalistic economy. The foundation of politically powerful nations also can be considered to be an injudicious, unprincipled Capitalistic Market economy. The misguided capitalistic economy has created consumerism and cut-throat competition in the world today.

 

Culturization

 

In no way can we can hide the truths of history and international phenomena.

 

With the strength of political power and riches, some nations are going to be the leaders of our global society. Once, Germany started showing their power by saying Kultur or culturization of the world. England also said that she was going to culturize men of the world highlighting their motto, ‘white man’s burden’. Then France started civilizing her mission. To civilize the world, many nations badly needed various kinds of forces and many ways of destroying or killing others. Therefore, it is obvious that the so-called Kultur or ‘Culturization’ was not meant bring happiness to any nation, but to destroy others. In the name of bounden duty and cultural burden, some powerful nations were to overpower others and damage them.

 

International hatred

 

While peace talks and peace conferences were going on between 1899 and 1907, some powerful nations prepared for war. With the rapid development of the armament industry and the continual increase of forces gave birth to bitter ‘international hatred’ among the politically powerful nations. And the horror of war spread in Europe. Therefore, in the twentieth century, all the powerful countries of Europe expected war, and it forced them to prepare for a war-like situation. When they prepared for war, no one was there to imagine or to take account of the horrible and terrible consequences of weapons and explosives.

The consequences of the Balkan wars of 1912-1913 were great losses, but not benefits as expected by some people. Nor were there mind-pleasing results. There were troubles, conflicts, divergences, murder, segregation and utter destructions of valuable equipment and property, and everyone suffered heavy losses.


Russian mobilization

 

In 1914, the people of Serbia and Bosnia were experiencing great trouble. On 28th July, 1914, Austria declared war on Serbia. This really was a misunderstanding of attitudes and feelings. Meanwhile, Russian troops received orders to mobilize for fear of a German attack. Unexpected news of this Russian mobilization alarmed Germany. Germany demanded that Russia should call a halt to mobilization, but it did not happen.

 

On 1st August, 1914, Germany made a decision to mobilize and declared war against Russia and France. But to get to France, the Germans had to smother Belgium. Then, England came on the scene and she declared war against Germany.

 

England-Germany
 

France wanted to take their troops across Belgium to crush Germany.
 

Midnight on August 4 was a turning point as England declared war against Germany. Powerful nations, i.e. France, Austria, Russia, England, and Germany were all involved in the war. Later, Italy also couldn’t escape from this competition of continuous unreasonable aggressive attitudes, and Italy joined the French-English-Russian side.
 

Trench warfare began between the French and German armies and continued for over three years. The Turks attacked the Suez Canal while Egypt was caught up in another problem. Britain attacked many places in Turkey. Iran, Syria, and Palestine were also in hot water.
 

Lusitania
 

In the meantime, German colonies in Africa were attacked by Anglo-French forces. Italy also joined the Anglo-French. In October 1915, Bulgaria joined Germany. The Astro-German army, with the support of Bulgaria, defeated Serbia. Rumania, after two years of silence joined the Anglo-French alliance. In 1915, the gigantic British ship the ‘Lusitania’ with a large number of people on board, was sunk by a German submarine. The city of London also was targeted for bombing.
 

In 1917, the United States declared war and they used their enormous resources.
 

Half-criminals
 

These wars were extremely destructive and consumed millions of human lives. Some used poisonous gas against their enemies, aeroplanes changed into bombers, hundreds of huge machines were used for brutal killings, and family members of soldiers severely suffered from deprivation and terrible starvation. Life was full of dark feelings, sorrow, lamentation, grief, distress, torture, and agony. Every one experienced real discontent, displeasure and unhappiness. Normal people lost their mental balance and ordinary ethical behaviour and became half-criminals.
 

Central Asia
 

Many Buddhist cultural oases situated in Central Asia were demolished by extremists because of their misguided views (ditthis).
 

In 1219 AD, Genghis Khan destroyed great cities and killed millions of innocent people and Buddhist monks. The great cultural city of Bokhara, with a population of over one million, was reduced to ashes by him. In the ancient city of Samarkand, he killed nearly a million people.
 

All the arts and crafts that had flourished in Central Asia for hundreds of years disappeared. Civilized life seemed to cease in Persia and in Central Asia. Today, we can see the remnants of that great, peaceful civilization.
 

Genocide wars
 

During the Chinese Revolution in 1911, 2.4 million people died, and during Russian revolution from 1917 to 1921, five million people died. Twenty million people died during the First World War. In 1932-33, the Russian and Ukraine war killed 10 million people. The result of Stalin’s cleansing brought death to 13 million people. Between 1939 and 1945, there was the Second World War and it consumed 55 million people. Mao’s ‘Great Leap Forward’ in 1958-61 killed 38 million people and the result of Mao’s Cultural Revolution caused the death of 11 million people. In 1980-88, during the Iraq-Iran war, one million were killed.
 

Dogmatic views
 

The dogmatic views of so-called ill-conceived patriotism wiped out millions of young people in the prime of life. Can this outcome be considered to be a conquest or genuine victory or triumph of man?
 

Each side named the other the ‘aggressor’ or the ‘ill-behaved one’ and each party pretended to attack in self-defense only. The irony is that in the name of self-defense, they had to defeat or kill others. They were prepared to fight and were willing to defeat the other to celebrate victory.

 

Stories of the ill-treatment of certain pilgrims excited the whole of Europe and a ‘Holy War’ was declared in order to rescue of the holy city. For more than 150 years, war-like struggles continued between two sides. The result of the Crusades was to bring death and wretchedness to millions of religious followers.

 

Righteous reasons?

 

Powerful nations who were determined to defeat others said that they had righteous reasons for war.

 

Germany wanted to defeat her bitter enemies. Was it, in a way, to safeguard Germany and her dignity? Meanwhile, newspapers created a war-like atmosphere right through Europe.

 

The paradox is that even famous scientists, professors, writers and thinkers lost their mental balance and imitated others, and supported war.

 

Clergymen or peace-makers?

 

Clergymen who are supposed to be peace-makers also lost their peaceful mental balance and were in favour of blood-thirsty wars. Even socialists and peace-lovers forgot their principles and distorted their fundamental thinking system by analyzing everything through the telescope of war. Newspaper editors were able to deceive and mislead common people by putting forward perverted ideas and prepared the ground for war.

 

While genocide was taking place in many parts of Europe, people heard pompous phrases about the reason for the killings. It was a war to end war; war for the freedom of small nations; war for self-determination; war to safeguard of democracy and war for honour and they came up with ‘fine’ patriotic slogans and the young too were forced to jump into the furnace of war.

 

Needless to say, war is a terribly expensive business. It can, easily, gulp down millions of priceless materials. It directs man’s energy towards complete destruction. Many rich nations pay for war in order to gain glory or to satisfy their ‘conceit’ (m?na).

 

Buddhist view 

When the Buddha was explaining the ‘Mahanidhana Sutta’ (The Great Causes Discourse) to Venerable Ananda, he said: 

 

"Ananda, feeling conditions craving (tanha),
 craving conditions seeking (pariyesana),
 seeking conditions acquisition (labha),
 acquisition conditions decision-making (vinicchaya), 

decision-making conditions lustful desire (chandaraga),
 lustful desire conditions attachment (ajjhosana),
 attachment conditions appropriation (pariggaha),
 appropriation conditions avarice (macchariya), 

avarice conditions guarding of possessions (arakkha),
 and because of the guarding of possessions
 there arise the taking up of stick and sward (danddna);

conflicts, quarrels, and disputes; accusations

 

(satth d nakalahaviggaha-viv datuvamtuvam),

divisive speech, and lies(pesu˝˝amusavada).

 

 Furthermore, the Buddha said: 

"And this is the way to understand how it is that because of defensiveness, various evil, unskillful phenomena come into play: the taking up of sticks and swords; conflicts, quarrels, and disputes; accusations, divisive speech and lies.
 

"Thus, this is a cause, this is a reason, this is an origination, this is a necessary condition for the coming into play of various evils, unskillful phenomena - the taking up of sticks and swords; conflicts, quarrels and disputes; accusations, divisive speech, and lies - i.e., defensiveness. "Defensiveness is dependent on stinginess. Thus, it has been said. And this is the way to understand how defensiveness is dependent on stinginess. If there was no stinginess at all, in any way, of anything anywhere, in the utter absence of stinginess, from the cessation of stinginess, would defensiveness be discerned?"
 

"Thus this is a cause, this is a reason, this is an origination, this is a requisite condition for defensiveness, i.e., stinginess (tanha). Therefore, according to the ‘Mahanidana sutta’, stinginess is the cause for all social evils, including hostilities, confrontations and war."

 

‘Pathama-Sang ma Sutta’
 

Addressing the monks, regarding the battle between king Ajatasattu and the king Kosala, the Buddha explains:
 

"Victory breeds enmity – (jayam veram pasavati)
 

The defeated one sleeps badly – ( dukkham seti parajito)
 

The peaceful one sleeps at ease – (upasanto sukham seti)
 

Having abandoned victory and defeat – (hitva jaya parajayam).
 

‘Dutiya-Sang ma Sutta’
 

In the ‘Dutiya-Sangama sutta’ of the ‘Samyutta-nikaya’, the Exalted One categorically elucidates the results of killing or destroying others thus:
 

"The killer begets a killer - (hant? labhati hant?ram)
 

One who conquers, a conqueror - (jet?ram labhate jayam)
 

The abuser begets abuse – (akkosako ca akkosam)
 

The reviler, one who reviles - (rosetara˝ ca rosako).
 

Thus, by the unfolding of kamma - (atha kammavivatthena)
 

The plunderer is plundered - (so vilutto viluppatiti)."
 

The Dhammapada
 

In the Dhammapada, we find some verses especially related to hateful mental concomitants and their effects. The fifth verse of the Dhammapada runs thus:
 

"Hatred is never appeased by hatred in this world; 

it is appeased by love. This is an eternal law."
 

(Nahi verena verani - sammanti’dha kudacanam, 

averena ca sammanti - esa dhammo sanantano).

 

The ‘Dhammapada’ explains the reality of ineffectiveness of winning wars thus:
 

"One may conquer in battle a thousand times and a thousand men, 

yet he is the best of conquerors who conquers himself."
 

(Yo sahassam sahassena - samgame manuse jine 

eka˝ca jeyya attanam – save sangama juttamo)  
 

Ten duties of kings
 

‘Dasa-raja-dhammas’ or ten duties assigned to kings do not pave the way for any violent struggle or war against others.
 

The king or the ruler should be a kind-hearted one and should practice gentleness (maddava). He should be free from hatred, violent volitions, and jealousy mental states (akkodha). He is supposed to be a non-violent one (avihimsa) and should avoid wars and should promote peaceful environment in his kingdom. He should practice patience and tolerance (khanti). Therefore, some of these duties directly show the path to peaceful co-existence of society and war-like actions are highly condemned by Buddhist teachings.
 

References: 

1. Nehru, J., ‘Glimpses of World History’, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 1995. 

2. The Mahanidhana Sutta, The Digha Nikaya vol. ii, Eds: T.W. Rhys Davids and J. E. Carpenter, PTS, London, 1966. 

3. The Samyutta Nikaya vol. i, Ed.; M.L. Feer, PTS, London, 1973. 

4. The Dhammapada, Tr.; Max Muller, Motilal Benarsidas, Delhi, 1965.

 

Journal

News

Letters

Books

Personalities History

Articles Index

J14.13   Ata Visi Budhuvaru – The 28 Buddhas
 

Walter Wijenayaka
 

Today is the Full Moon Poya Day of Vesak (on the Buddhist Year 2556 as well as 05. 05. 2012 as per the Gregorian calendar). It is a thrice blessed day, when the Sakyamuni Siddhartha Gauthama Buddha was born 2636 years ago, attained enlightenment 2601 years ago and finally departed from the worldly life 2556 years ago.

 

Not only the Buddha but all the previous countless buddhas were born, attained enlightenment and finally passed away on Vesak Full Moon Days, after practicing for countless aeons the ten perfections of
 

Dana (generosity)

Sila (virtue)

Nekhamma (renunciation)

Prangna (wisdom)

Viriya (effort)

Kshanthi (tolerance)

Satya (truthfulness)

Adittana (determination)

Metta (compassion) 

Upekka (Imperturbability)

 Adittana (determination)

Out of these countless number of buddhas there had been 28 buddhas – Ata Visi Budhuvaru.

Here is list of the names of the 28 buddhas with the particular Bodhi tree under which of each of them attained enlightenment,

together with some other particulars. 

Journal

News

Letters

Books

Personalities History

Articles Index

 

J14.14    When three Pious Buddhists met royalty - Part I

Upali K Salgado

 

Asokan pillar at Lumbini, in southern Nepal

In Buddhist philosophy, it is known that one’s existence is crucially affected by one’s Kamma. Man is heir to his wholesome or unwholesome Kamma. In the Samyukta Nikaya it is said, 

 

"But every deed a man performs 

With body or with voice or mind 

It is what we can call his own 

This with him he takes as he goes hence 

This is what follows after him 

And like a shadow departs"

 

In that background, when royalty met religious sages to fashion out their destinies and also that of their subjects, those meetings which resulted in benevolent reigns, were Karmically predestined and were in confluence or harmony with situations that prevailed. These meetings which had discussions of a metaphysical nature were not accidental or casual, and were therefore a success. They could be considered as continued meetings in Samsara’s cycle.

 

The Maha Mangala Sutta which is a discourse on rules of conduct for lay disciples, there are thirty eight ways indicated for the upliftment of man’s moral standard. One of them states, Kalena dhamma sakachcha - Discussing the dharma with others on proper occasions. Royalty and in particular Kings did discuss the dharma freely only with the monks and seek their advise. In such situations, Kings who showed deep respect to the Maha Sangha for their learning always seated themselves not on level but below the wise men. The religious sages were always on "high ground" both metaphorically and physically. For that reason, the teachings of the Buddha were acceptable and spread fast in India and in Lanka.

 

In that background, this story refers to royalty whose lives were fashioned by three sages, leaving behind drama of a high order. The fruits or gains of their meetings resulted in benevolent reigns an changed the course of history. 

 

Emperor Asoka - a King of Peace 

 

More than two thousand years ago, the geographic region known as Kalinga-desa (modern state of Orissa) was invaded by mighty army of the Warrior King known as Chanda Asoka. After the battle, the King saw the river Mahanadi which flowed past the battlefield turn red with blood of the slain enemy. He surveyed the scene of horror with remorse and revulsion. At that moment he met a young Samanera named Nigrodha, a follower of the Buddha. The Samanera led the king to his Elder Arahant Muggalia Putta Tissa and finally, the King reigned long being on the "correct path".  

His reign thereafter saw the golden age of India. Having shun violence, the King devoted his life to effecting the Dharma Vijaya, which resulted in peace and prosperity, bringing eternal glory to himself. When Emperor Asoka renounced war, he said, "My chariot shall not roll on the bloody wheels from victory to victory, till earth wears the red record of my past bad name". Since then, Asoka was known not as Chanda Asoka but as Dharma Asoka - the righteous ruler, an Emperor loved by all. He had erected rock pillars with the dharma chakra on top, and edicts found in Kashmir, Patna, Buddha Gaya, Sanchi and in Orissa. In these rock edicts he commanded that his subjects follow the teachings of the Buddha, be kind to all animals. In the fourth Rock edict he says, in consequence of the practice of the Buddha dharma, the sounds of war drums shall cease, and the music of the noble Buddha dharma be heard". This loved ruler saw that all highways had resting places for weary travellers, adequate drinking water; the roads were kept clean and planted with shade trees. Monasteries were constructed for monks, and people led honest lives, working on paddy fields which brought in good harvests. The emperor being a devout Buddhist took steps to Buddhist missionaries Arahant Mahinda and his sister Sanghamitta to Lanka, to spread the teachings of the Buddha, and also another delegation to Burma (modern day Myanmar). 

The underlying tone of Emperor Asoka’s reign was righteousness. He was described as a Dhammika Dharmaraja (a righteous lord of righteousness). S. Tachiban, a Japanese Buddhist scholar in 1926 wrote in his book Ethics of Buddhism: "He ruled people with justice and equity, when he conquered the earth to its ocean bounds, a Dhammika Dharmaraja he was established not by the sourge, not by the sword but by righteousness………." the secret of ruling over people is revealed in a conversation which passed between the Buddha and Mara. The following is given as something which presented itself in the mind of the Buddha and which was suggested by Mara. "It is possible to exercise governance with hurting or making others hurt, without conquering and causing others to conquer, without grieving or making others cause grief, but through righteousness." In the Digha Nikaya III, the Buddha himself comments on the word raja(King) as one "who charms others by Dhamma - righteousness". So righteousness or justice is one essential qualification of a ruler. It is therefore no wonder that King Asoka in his edicts is so fond of using the word Dhamma. 

 

A righteous ruler has to be a benevolent ruler - one who loves human beings. Dana or donations whether spiritual or temporal is an act of gratitude shown in mind, speech or deed. Dana means sacrifice for another’s welfare and it is that love that makes the world go round. 

 

Meeting Tissa "Beloved of Gods" 

 

Emperor Asoka was a friend of King Devanampiyatissa, who ruled over Lankadeepa. In about 250 B.C., Asoka sent his son, Mahinda to Lankadeepa to introduce the Buddha dharma to the subjects of King Devanampiyatissa. It has been historically documented that years ago, King Devanampiyatissa who reigned from Anuradhapura, chanced to meet the Mahinda, on a Poson full moon day, whilst on a hunting expedition at Mihintale. This meeting has had a profound impact on the history of Lanka, as it brought about a spiritual and social revolution in our ancient society. Perhaps, the greatest contribution emanating from this historic drama is the founding of the establishment known as the Maha Sangha. 

 

The Chronicle Deepavamsa, edited in 1879 by the German Scholar Hermann Oldenburg, graphically translated from the Pali language to English happening, interestingly states that: 

 

"One evening, Thera Mahinda, the great Teacher, retiring in solitude reflected whether the time would be favourable or unfavourable for the conversion of Lanka. Perceiving the thought of the Thera, Sakka the chief of gods appeared to the Sage and addressed him face to face. He said, "the time has come to Thee, great hero to convent Lankadeepa, go quickly to the best of the islands out of compassion for created being. ...preach the dhamma, proclaim the four noble truths, release men from fetters of sin, make illustrious the doctrine of the supreme Buddha’. Having heard sakka, Mahinda, the enlightener of the island reflected, and said "I shall go to Tambapani. subtle are the people there as they have not heard the well proclaimed path which leads to the destruction of all sufferings. I shall proclaim it to them…….." 

 

It is known that, Thera Mahinda and his fraternity Itthiya Thera, Bandusala, and Saribela the novice Sumana and lay pupil Bhanduka enroute resided at Vidheesa (near Sanchi) and proceeded to Mount Missaka, east of the great city. The Deepavamsa continues: that time King Devanampiyatissa, the son of Mutasiva was hunting at Mihintalawa saw a god who had assumed the form of an elk. He ran after the elk and, finally encountered, seated, cross-legged, whereupon the King was frightened. There the sage Mahinda called him by his name, "Come hither Tissa" (Thereafter) according to the chronicle, the King had asked "Who" is that bald headed man without companion, wearing a yellow garment, who addresses me in the language of non human beings"? Mahinda replied, "I am a Sramana belonging to the world of man; we are the pupils of the King of truth; out of comparison towards Thee we have repaired better front Jambudeepa". The King laid aside his weapons and exchanged greetings and later on learned that the sage and many others in Jambudeepa had attained Arahantship. Having satisfied himself with the intellect of the King, the sage preached to him the Hattipada Sutta, his event spontaneously converted forty thousand of the Kings men. With the conversion to Buddhism of King Devanampiyatissa on a Poson Day, the Sinhala Buddha nation gave birth. Buddhist culture, specially, Art and Architecture which is identifiable as unique and indigenous flourished in all Temples thereafter in the Thuparamaya built by King Devanampiya Tissa, a great monastery complex as established at the Maha Mega Uyana and also at Mahintale. Today are the rock caves, ruins of abodes of monks and hospitals complete with underground drainage system".

 

06 04 2012 - The Island

 

 

Journal

News

Letters

Books

Personalities History

Articles Index

J14.14    When three Pious Buddhists met royalty - Part II

Upali K Salgado

 

Bactrian King Milinda’s debates

About 600 years later, yet another Sage happened to meet a King of remarkable character. He was a Greek (Bactrian) Warrior King who ruled in Indus Valley around Ghandhar where with Emperor Asoka’s influence - the flower of Buddhism bloomed, taking its fragrance to distant Taxila, a renowned Bhikkhu University. King Meander, often referred as King Milinda, came from the area around Toman islands of the Mediterranean sea, to North India, as a part of King Alexander’s invasion of North India. The Buddha dharma appealed to the King’s sprint of Inquiry as he was a seeker of truth. In that scenario, he met the monk Nagasena, whilst the latter was on his daily alms rounds. The monk had a calm and serene personality which an instant impression on the King at the first meeting. The Sage Nagasena was not only learned and wise, he was a skillful, of the Buddha philosophy and spoke with great clarity. The King on the other hand was soaked with spiritual joy and after long debates that lasted several dates, decided to be a monk himself and handed over his Kingdom to his son. The Shinkot inscription indicates that King Milinda helped to propagate Buddhism between the region of the Hindu Kush mountain of Upper Kashmir and the beautiful Indus Valley, He was a benevolent King and brought peace to the land.

 

The long conversions between the King and the religious Sage is known as Milinda Panna( Questions of King Milinda). It is written in Pali language and as been translated by Scholar Dr. T.W. Rhys Davids of the Pali Text Society, London, about 100 years ago. Whilst the identity of the author remains unknown, these conversations or "debates" have been accepted as a valued piece of Buddhist literature written about 500 years after the Maha Pari Nibbana (demise) of Gotama Buddha.

 

The Milinda Panna is today accepted with great reverence in Myanmar. It is known that when the King Milinda sought the help of the sage to clarify certain matters relating to the dharma, they had agreed at the very beginning, that the conversation should be of an intellectual nature, unravelling what was doubtful, and acknowledging mistakes. The King was not to use his liberty or prerogatives to be annoyed or show any form of displeasure on any matters. On that basis, many questions were put to the Sage Nagasena by the King. A few of them were:

 

The Debate

The King asks Nagasena

"Have you or your teachers seen the Buddha"?

"No great king", replied Nagasena

"Then, Nagasena, there is no Buddha"! said the King.

"But have you or your father seen the River Uha in the Himalayas"?

"No venerable sir".

"Then would it be right to say there is no river Uha"? "You are dexterous, Nagasena, in reply."

The conversation continues:

"If -the Buddha was omniscient why did he lay down the rules for the Order only when the occasion arose"? (asked the King)

"He laid down the rules only when the need arose, as a skilled doctor only prescribes medicine when this need arises, although he knows all the medicines in advance of a disease arising". (replied Nagasena).

"If the Buddha was endowed with the thirty two marks of a great man, why were his parents not also so endowed "?

"As a lotus that is born in the mud and comes to perfection in the water, does not resemble them, so the Buddha was unlike his parents’.

On another day when King Milinda went to the Buddhist sage and Nagasena, the King began by asking about his identity (name).

"‘How is your reverence known, and what sir, is your name"? "Oh King, I am known as Nagasena but that is only a designation in common use, for no permanent individual can be found".

 

Then Milinda called upon the Bactrian Greeks and the monks to hear witness:

"This sage Nagasena says, that no permanent individual is implied in his name. Is it possible to approve of that"? Then he turned to Nagasena and said, "If, most venerable Nagasena, that is true, who is it who gives you robes, food and shelter? Who lives the righteous life? Or again, who kills living beings, steals, commits adultery, tells lies or take strong drinks? If what you say is true then there is neither merit nor demerit, nor is there any doer of good or evil deeds and no results of kamma. If, venerable sir, a man were to kill you, there would be no murder, and it follows that there are no masters or teachers in your Order. You say, that you are called Nagasena; now what is that Nagasena? Is it the hair?"

"I don’t say that, great king." "Is it then the nails, teeth, skin or other parts of the body"? "Certainly not". "Or is it the body, or feelings, or perceptions, or formations, or consciousness? Is it all of these combined? Or is it something outside of them that is Nagasena"?

And still Nagasena answered: "It is none of these".

"Then, ask as I may, I can discover no Nagasena. Nagasena is an empty sound. Who is it we see before us? Is it a falsehood that your reverence has spoken".

"You say, have been reared in great luxury as becomes your noble birth. How did you come here, by foot or in a chariot?

"In a chariot, venerable sir". "Then, explain sir, what that is. Is it the axle? Or the wheels, or the chassis, or reins, or like that is the chariot? Is it all of these combined, or is it something apart from them"? "It is none of these things, venerable sir".

"Then, sir, this chariot is an empty sound. You spoke falsely when you said that you came here in a chariot. You are a great king of India. Who are you afraid of that you speak untruth?" And he called upon the Bactrian, Greeks and the monks to bear witness: ‘This King Milinda has said that he came hereby a chariot but when asked "What is it"? He is unable to show it. Is it possible to approve of that"?

Then the five hundred Bactrian Greeks shouted their approval and said to the king - "Get out of that if you can"! "Venerable sir, I have spoken the truth. It is because it has all these parts that it comes under the term chariot "?

"Very good, sir, your majesty has rightly grasped the meaning. Even so it is because of the thirty-two kinds of organic matter in a human body and the five aggregates of being that I come under the term Nagasena. As it was said by Sister Vajira in the presence of the Buddha, "Just as it is by the existence of the various parts that the word "Chariot" is-used, just so is it, that when the aggregates of being are there we talk of a being".

"Most wonderful, Nagasena, most extraordinary that you have solved this puzzle, difficult though it was. If the Buddha himself were here he would approve of your reply."

 

(The-above questions of King Milinda and the answers given have been reprinted from several publications on the subject, compiled by many scholars).

 

N. K. G. Mendis, Editor of The Questions of King Milinda (An abridgement of the Milindapanha) a B.P.S. Kandy publication (1993) which is an extensive presentation of the doctrinal matters discussed by King Milinda and the Sage Nagasena states on page 171 - "Concluded are the two hundred and sixty two questions of Milinda". He continues, "When the King and the Elder had come to the end of their questions and answers, the great earth, eighty four hundred thousand yonas in extent shook six times as far as the ocean boundaries, lightning flashed., the devas poured down rain of heavenly flowers. The Great Brahma applauded and in the depths of the ocean there was a mighty roar of thunder from a storm cloud and Milinda the King was filled with joy of heart, all pride of heart (in him) was suppressed he was aware of the…..; Buddha’s dispensation, confident in the Three Jewels, without confusion, without obduracy and being greatly pleased with the Elder spoke thus: "It is good reverend Nagasena, questions relating to the Buddha’s range has been answered by you, in the Buddha’s Dispensation there is not another like you for answering questions except the Elder Sariputta, the General of the Dhamma."

 

As stated earlier the King being delighted at what he learnt went forth from home to homelessness, increasing his love and understanding of the noble Buddha dharma, and finally attained Arahatship.

 

King Keerthi Sri Rajasinghe meets Venerable Saranankara, Sangharaja

 

In ancient Ceylon, between the 17th and 18th Centuries, the form of Buddhism that prevailed in certain places was not strictly in accordance with the Vinaya rules (Code of conduct for Buddhist monks). In several temples, men in robes called Ganninanses" lived a carefree life. No Upasampada (Higher Ordination for Bhikkhus) had been held for a very long time. Therefore, the status of Buddhism as practised had declined. In that scenario, during the reign of King Keerthi Sri Rajasinghe who ruled from Kandy, a senior monk who had received Upasampada, named Welivita Pindapadika Asarana Saranankara (later bestowed with the title of "Sangharaja" (1753-1777), urged King Keerthi Sri Rajasinghe to send a formal Buddhist delegation to meet King Dhammika of Siam (now Thailand) who ruled from Ayuthaya, seeking his help and guidance to reestablish a valid Upasampada, in Ceylon. Both King Dhammika and the Sangharaja of Siam gladly agreed to the request, after having received the official Ceylon delegation of 60 persons including monk chieftain. Three years later, under the leadership of Venerable Upali of Siam, the delegation returned to Kandy with several Siamese monks. They disembarked at Trincomalee and later were received by our King, and Kandyan Chieftains at the Pushparama Temple (now known as the Malwathu Maha Vihare). The delegation of monks including Ven Upali a senior monk of Siam & several other Siamese monks brought to Ceylon a valid Upasampada, and thus established the Siam Maha Nikaya of KAndy. Three years later Ven. Welivita Sri Saranankara was, bestowed with the title of "Sangharaja" by the Asgiriya Maha Vihare of Kandy.

 

07 04 2012 - The Island

 

 

Journal

News

Letters

Books

Personalities History

Articles Index

  

J14.15    Buddhism & The Soldier

Major General Ananda Weerasekera

 

Different people have understood Buddhism differently. It is often debated whether Buddhism is a religion, philosophy or a way of life or not. Since Buddhism contains all these aspects one is justified in drawing any conclusion so long as one does not give an exclusive and rigid title. The Buddha-dhamma (Doctrine), as most of the scholars say , is a moral and philosophical system which expounds a unique path of enlightenment, and is not a subject to be studied from a mere academic standpoint. It is certainly to be studied, more to be practiced , and above all to be realized by oneself.

 

All the teachings of the Buddha deal, in one way or another with the path, known as The Noble Eightfold Path. It was the path realised and introduced by Buddha and it is as follows.

Right views

Right thought

Right speech

Right action

Right livelihood

Right effort

Right mindfulness

Right concentration

This is also known as the 'Middle Path', since in actual practice it avoids extremes. This Noble Eightfold Path is discussed in detail in the Buddhist Texts. It is sufficient to

 

state that it is a code of conduct clearly laid down by Buddha to all four sections of the Buddhist Society. That is Bikkhu (monks), Bikkhuni (nuns), Upasaka (laymen), Upasika (laywomen).

 

The deciples of the Buddha whether men or women belong to many walks of life from a King to a Servant. Whatever their civil status may be a code of conduct and moral obligations for each one has been clearly laid down by the Buddha. This code of conduct is collectively referred to as Virtue (seela) which encompasses disciplined speech, disciplined thought and controlled senses. A layman or a laywomen is advised to observe the five basic precepts as the minimum limit of their 'discipline' in the society. The limits of 'seela' are different for those who have renounced the lay life in search of liberation, The Nirvana.

 

However the five precepts are not commandments but aspirations voluntarily undertaken by each one. The first precept is to abstain from taking life. "The life", according to Buddhism covers the entire spectrum of living beings and are covered in 'Karaneeya Mettha Sutta' as follows.

 

Tasa-Tava:- moving, unmoving

Diga-long, Mahantha-large,

Majjima-medium,

Rassaka- short,

Anuka-minute, Thula- fat

Ditta-that can be seen,

Additta-that cannot be seen,

Dure-which live far,

Avidure-which live near

Bhuta-born,

Sambavesi- seeking birth

Buddha's teachings are quite clear in regard to the extent to which 'love & compassion' should expand,. 'Sabbe satta bhavanthu sukhitatta', ie. 'May all beings be happy' Buddha not only condemned the destruction of living beings as higher seela, he also condemned the destruction of the plant life. Buddhism being a 'way of life' where plant animal and human lives are protected ,how does one explain the 'destruction and suffering caused by war.'

 

War is violence, killing, destruction, blood and pain. Has Buddha accepted these? According to Buddha, the causes of war being greed, aversion and delusion are deep rooted in human mind. The milestones of the path being seela, samadhi and panna make the human being realize the causes that contribute to warfare and for the need for the eradication of same.

 

The Buddha said,

 

All tremble at violence, All fear death,

Comparing oneself with others

One Should neither kill nor cause others to Kill' (Dammapada)

 

Hence any form of violence is not acceptable . He further says,

'Victory breeds hatred

The defeated live in pain,

Happily the peaceful live,

Giving up victory and defeat (Dammapada)

 

Victory and Defeat are two sides of the coin of War. It is clear in Buddhism, what breeds in war whether it is victory or defeat.

 

Let us now deal with those having a direct involvement with War, The King or in today's context the Government and the soldier. Does Buddhism permit the State to build and foster an Army?. Can a good Buddhist be a soldier? and can he kill for the sake of the country? What about the 'Defence' of a country.? When a ruthless army invades a country, does Buddhism prohibit a Buddhist King to defend his country and his people? If Buddhism is a 'way of life,' is there any other way for a righteous king to battle against an invasion of an army.?

 

The Damma is a way of life based on Right Thought, Right Livelihood, Right Action etc. culminating in the supreme goal of Nibbana . However it is a gradual process of training and progressing on the path through one's long samsaric journey until one has fulfilled the necessery conditions and is ready to let go the cycle of birth decay and death. Hence, until then the King has to rule, the farmer has to farm, teacher has to teach, the trader has to trade and so on. But they are expected to do it the Buddhist way in order to help them progress on the path.

 

In 'chakkavatti- sihanada sutta' (The Lion's Roar on the Turning of Wheel) of the long discourses of the Buddha, Buddha justified the requirement of the king having an Army to provide guard, protection and security for different classes of people in the kingdom from internal and external threats. It refers to a Wheel Turning monarch named Dalhanemi, a righteous monarch of the law, conqueror of the four quarters who had established the security of his realm and was possessed of the seven treasures. He had more than 1000 sons who were heroes, of heroic stature, conquerors of the hostile army. Explaining the noble duties of a righteous king, Buddha also pointed out the advice given to the king in regard to his obligation to provide security for its people. The advisor tells the king " my son, yourself depending on the Dhamma, revering it, doing homage to it, and venerating it having the Dhamma as your badge and banner, acknowledging the Dhamma as your master, you should establish guard, ward and protection according to Dhamma for your own household, your troops in the Army, your nobles and vassals, for Brahmins and householders, town and countryfolk, ascetics and Brahmins, for beasts and birds. Let no crime prevail in your kingdom"

 

Explaining further the duties of a righteous king, Buddha states, "…Son, the people of your kingdom should from time to time come to you and consult you as to what is to be followed and what is not to be followed, what is wholesome and what not wholesome, and what action will in the long run lead to harm and sorrow, welfare and happiness. You should listen and tell them to avoid evil and to do what is good for the country. This sutta clearly indicates that Buddhism permits a king to have an army since a righteous king, who is also the commander of the army, knows, the righteous way to engage the army and to protect his people.

 

'Seeha Senapathi Sutta' of Anguttara Nikaya-5 shows how, one of the army commanders named 'Seeha' went to Buddha to clarify certain doubts on the Dhamma and how the Buddha advised him without requesting him to resign from the Army or to disband the army. Having clarified his doubts on the Dhamma, Commander Seeha requested Buddha to accept him as a deciple of the Buddha. But Buddha instead of advising him to resign from the army advised thus

 

'Seeha, it is proper for a popular person of your status to always think and examine when attending to affairs and making decisions ' Seeha, the commander became a sotapanna (stream enterer = first fruit of the Path) having listened to the Dhamma, but remained in the army as a commander.

 

In this instance too one could see that Buddha did not advise Seeha against the Army or being a commander of an Army, but only advised to discharge his duties the proper way.

 

King Ajasattu, had a unsatiable desire to conquer other kingdoms. He even murdered his father for the throne and aided Devadatta who was plotting to kill the Buddha. Once Ajasattu having decided to conquer the kingdom of Vajjians sent his chief minister Vassakara to Buddha to find out Buddha's views about his decision to conquer the Vajjians. Ajasttu wanted to know whether he will gain victory, cunningly using Buddha's ability to predict the future with accuracy.

 

Once the usual complimentary greetings were exchanged, between the Buddha and Vassakara and the purpose of his visit was made known, Buddha turned to his chief attendant Venerable Ananda with praise of the Vajjians and their noble democratic confederacy. Buddha further inquired from Venerable Ananda whether the Vajjians are strictly following the conditions of Dhamma NOT leading to decline as taught to the Vajjians by Buddha to which Ven. Ananda replied 'yes'.

 

Then Buddha turned to venerable Ananda and declared thus, "As long as they would continue on these lines, taught them by Buddha earlier at Vasali, they cannot be defeated and not expected to decline but to prosper." The shrewd minister drew his own conclusion that the Licchavis of vajji state could not be conquered in battle at that moment, but if their unity and alliance is broken they could be defeated and ran back to his king with this news. In fact Ajasattu defeated vajjians not even three years after the Buddha's death purely by shrewdly creating disunity amongst the rulers of the Vajjians

 

Numerous conclusions could be drawn from this story too. Buddha knew that both States did have strong armies and that they are needed for the protection of their people. Buddha did not advice minister Vassakara that the concept on 'Army' is against Buddhism and that he should advice the king not to declare war against Vajjis but to desolve the army. Buddha at this instance also brought up important lessons in 'state craft.' It helped the crafty minister to adopt a different strategy to invade Vajji State, by using psychological approach first and then the physical assault next. Further, by having a conversation with Venerable Ananda Buddha indicated to minister Vassakara that even though king Ajasasattu has a mighty strong army, and have conquered several states he will not be able to defeat Licchavis so long as they adhere to the said noble policies. It is also an indirect advice to king Ajatasattu that it is in order having an army but that army will not be able to conquer people with virtuous qualities. It was also an indication to Ajasattu that he too should be a righteous king with an army where no other king could defeat him, by adhering to the said policies which will not lead a society to decline. These policies are referred to as 'saptha aparihani dhamma' and they are as follows:

 

Having meetings and assemblies frequently.

Rulers assembling in harmony, conducting their affairs in harmony and dispersing in harmony.

Adhering to the accepted ancient noble traditions and not extirpating the accepted established norms and traditions by introducing new laws.

Respecting the elders, worshiping them, consulting them, and believing that they must be listened to.

Respecting and protecting the women folk and not living with them forcibly or molesting them.

Paying respect to all internal and external places of worship, paying homage to those worthy of veneration and continue to make spiritual offerings traditionally done.

Soldiering was accepted by the Buddha as a noble profession.The soldier was known as " Rajabhata." Buddha did not permit rajabata to become monks whilst in service as a soldier.

 

Once Sidhartha Gauthama's father, king Suddhodana came to Buddha and complained,

 

"Gauthama Buddha, my son, when you were the most suitable for the throne of a Sakvithi King, you left all of us and became a monk. Then you insulted me by begging for meals, walking house to house along the streets in my own town. The relatives laughed at me and they insulted me. Now you are trying to destroy my Army."

 

" Why " the Buddha asked. " What has happened to your great Army, my father."

 

Then the king answered," Can't you see, my soldiers are deserting the army one by one and joining your group as monks."

 

" why are they becoming monks, great king and why are they leaving the Army." Asked Buddha.

 

" Can't you see " the king answered. " They know that when they become monks they get free food, free clothes, free accommodation and respected by all."

 

Buddha smiled and requested the king to go back to the Palace and said that he will settle the issue. Buddha then promulgated a law ( Vinaya ) for the monks to the effect that, No soldier could become a monk whilst in military service. This law is still valid to date. Accordingly even today unless a soldier is legally discharged from the army or unless a soldier retires legitimately, he is NOT ordained as a monk and will not be accepted into the order of monks. This ensures that soldiers do not desert the army even to join the Buddhist order.

 

Further in terms of the Vinaya ( the code of conduct for monks) monks permitted to visit the battle field but they were ordered to return before the sunset. Permission was also given to visit the injured relatives in the battlefield.

 

Further whilst the expressly referred to five occupations as unrighteous Soldiering is not included amongst those.

 

The Buddha once describing the qualities of a good monk, compared those to the essential qualities of a good king to be as follows:

 

Pure decent

Great wealth

Strong army

Wise ministers

Glory

 

Once at the city of Savatti, Buddha describing five types of monks in comparison to the five types of soldiers in the world, (A.iii, duthiya yodhajeevupama sutta ) classified the soldiers as follows:-

 

A soldier who enters the battle field armed with sword and shield, bow and arrows and who gets himself killed by the enemy during battle. This is the first type of soldier.

A soldier who enters the battle field bravely armed with sword and shield, bow and arrows but gets injured during battle and taken to his close relatives. But he dies on the way before he reaches his relatives. This is the second type of soldier.

Soldier who enters the battlefield bravely armed with sword and shield, bow and arrows, gets injured and having taken to his close relatives, receives medical treatment with care. But he dies with the same ailment although he was surrounded by relatives. This is the third type of soldier.

Soldier who enters the battlefield bravely armed with sword and shield, bow and arrows, gets injured and having taken to his close relatives, receives medical treatment with care. He recovers from the injury. This is the fourth type of soldier.

Soldier who enters the battlefield bravely armed with armourments destroys and defeats the enemy. Having won the battle he remains in the battlefront victoriously. This is the fifth type of soldier.

Similarly in ' patama yodhajeevacupama sutta' Buddha explains five types of soldiers or warriors.

 

Type -1- Tremble with fear, unsteady, afraid to get into the battlefield by seeing the dust and clouds created by fighting men, animals and vehicles.

Type - 2 - Could withstand the dust and clouds. But tremble with fear, unsteady, afraid to get into the battlefield by seeing the Standards and Banners of the enemy.

Type-3- Could withstand dust and clouds, the sight of the enemy Standards and Banners But tremble with fear, unsteady, afraid to get into the battlefield by hearing the frightening noises and the battle cries in the field.

Type- 4 - could withstand dust and clouds, Standards and Banners of the enemy, the noises and the battle cries But Tremble with fear, unsteady, afraid to get into the battlefield by a small attack by the enemy.

Type -5- could withstand dust and clouds, Standards and Banners of the enemy, the noises and the battle cries. He fights back and wins his battle. Having won, he victoriously enjoys the fruits seven days staying in the middle of the battlefield.

When the Buddha recognized a strong army as an essential requirement of the king he was also aware that the Commander in Chief of the Army was also the king of the country and that a strong Army four main divisions, then known as 'the caturangani sena', consisting of Cavalry (horses), Elephant force, Armed vehicles and the Infantry, each having its own functions in battle.

 

His knowledge of the battlefield is so evident for the similis frequently quoted by him from the battlefield. In Akkhama sutta of Anguttara Nikaya Buddha compares five weak qualities of elephants selected to go into battle with that of 5 weak qualities of monks proceeding through the battle of 'Liberation.'

 

In the Sutta the Buddha says, An elephant belonging to the 'caturangani sena' [four divisions of the Army of the ruler] will not be suitable if , it get frightened, trembles, unable to control and withdraws,

 

merely by the sight of other elephants, horses, military vehicles and soldiers in the battle field,

merely by hearing noises and sounds of the battle cries of elephants, horses, infantry and worrier drums in the field,

merely by the body smell and the smell of urine etc of other majestic elephants in the battle field,

merely for not getting its food and water for one day or few days in the battle field.

From the above it is clear that contrary to the popular belief the Buddha has not rejected or prohibited soldiering as a profession or occupation and the right of a king or a government to have an army and to defend one's country and its people. In the contrary the Buddha has expressly recognized the necessity for a king to have an army and providing protection to the subjects of a country has been recognized as a prime duty of the king .

 

The Buddha in his wisdom did not expect a nation or the rulers to be lame ducks in the wake of an enemy invasion. However Buddha's expectations from one who is training to be an Arhant whether monk or layman are different and it should not be mistaken with the Buddha's expectations from the laity burdened with numerous worldly responsibilities. It is also because the Buddha in his wisdom did not expect every 'Buddhist' to opt for Arahantship nor to become an ascetic renouncing the worldly affairs. To the majority Buddhism is a way of life rather than a faith, philosophy, or a religion.

 However it should be stressed that a soldier like all others is subject to the law of Kamma and will not escape the Kammic fruits of "taking the Life"of a sentient being (panatipatha) even though he may have had the overall noble intention of protecting his country and his people.

 

While killing may be inevitable in a long and successful army career opportunities for merit too is unlimited for a disciplined and conscientious soldier.

 

A disciplined soldier fights his enemy in accordance with the best of traditions and norms maintained by an army. He doesn't kill a defenseless person. A good soldier provides medical treatment to the injured enemy captured. He doesn't kill prisoners of war, children, women or the aged. A disciplined soldier destroys his enemy only when his or the lives of his comrades are in danger.

 

Soldier is one who thrives for peace within because he is one who realizes the pain of his own wounds. He is one who sees the bloody destruction of war, the dead, the suffering etc. Hence his desire to bring peace to himself as well as to the others by ending the war as soon as possible. He not only suffers during the war but even after the war. The painful memories of the battles he fought linger in him making his aspire for true and lasting peace within and without. Hence the common phenomenon of transformation of brutal kings having an insatiable desire to conquer to incomparable and exemplary righteous kings such as Drarmasoka king of Mourian dynasty of India.

2600 Wesak

 

Journal

News

Letters

Books

Personalities History

Articles Index

J14.16   Buddha Gaya - The site of Enlightenment

Upali Salgado

 

The ever flowing Ganges, mother of all great rivers of India, when passing through the ancient city of Varnasi (Benares) is always present in the spirit of Hindu devotees. The waters assuage their spiritual thirst, and give life to the great valley. The temple Gopurams rising high, all ornate with Indian Culture, dedicated to several Hindu deities are found all over the subcontinent, as best seen at Vittachalam, Chittambaram, Tanjore and Madurai. They help all Hindus to spiritually cleanse themselves and gain solace in the eyes of gods. Likewise, at Buddha-Gaya, the home of 28 previous Buddhas, there is a majestic looking, very ancient Temple, and a much ‘venerated Bodhi (Pipal) Tree, where 2600 years ago, Gotama Buddha of the Sakya clan, gave the world an undying message of how to live righteously and end suffering, in all its many faceted forms.
 

The beautiful Buddhist Vihara having striking Gupta architecture at Buddha-Gaya has been extensively restored during the last 700 years century. The Vihara is 170 feet in height and 48 feet wide at plinth level, with straight sides forming a square truncated pyramid. History records that, a Muslim Warrior from Bengal had earlier destroyed the Vihara. The classic of ancient literature, Asokavadana and related records recounted by Chinese pilgrims describe Emperor Asoka’s conversion to Buddhism in the eight year of his glorious reign, after his extensive conquests; and the worship of the Bodhi (Pipal) Tree, which later had been cut down by Asoka’s wife, as the queen had been angered that the King spent too much time in worship, at the hallowed site. When Emperor Asoka saw the damage done, "he filled up earth on four sides of the tree stump, and moistened its roots with cow’s milk". The Bodhi Tree had miraculously revived and in no time had reached a height of 37 metres. By her side, the King had laid piles and piles of earth, and polished stone to build the Vihara, which rose in stages, to be a majestic looking structure.
 

The Bodhi Tree, according to Sir Alexander Cunningham, the well known Archaeologist of India, in 1890, looked to be very much decayed. The Bodhi Tree we now see, is therefore from a sapling of the original tree. Sir Alexander Cunningham had first visited Buddha-Gaya in 1861, and 19 years later, undertook a major restoration of the Vihara. Previously, about in 1015AD devout Burmese Kings (King Dharmaraja being one of them) with the assistance of Burmese pilgrims had haphazardly renovated the dilapidated structures.
 

Archaeologists say, that the vast majority of sculptures are of the Gupta period, and primarily belong to the Pala period (8th to 12th Century). The Vihara has been built of layers of plaster and polished red sandstone. The image of Gotama Buddha inside the Vihara, in the Bhumisparsha Mudra, i.e. with its right hand and fingers touching the Earth calling it to witness His "Great Donations" when challenged by Mara. The "diamond throne" where all Buddhas sat to meditate, called the Vajrasana is sited outside the main vihara walls. These are two important Archaeological remains for devotees to pay homage.
 

Sir Edwin Arnold, KCIE MA, Author of Light of Asia (which has sold over 60 Editions in England and 5o editions in the U.S.A.) had visited Buddha Gaya in about 1875, at a time when the hallowed place was directly under the overlordship of a Hindu Saivite Mahant. Seeing the shabby or neglected state this Vihara was in, he with his incomparable epic, focussed the world’s attention, which prompted a patriotic Ceylonese and devout Buddhist, Anagarika Dharmapala (later Ordained a Bhikkhu and named Venerable Devamitta Dharmapala) to visit the holy place. He resolved that the Buddhists should take control of the religious rites of the Vihara, the Bodhi Tree and surrounding area. With financial assistance received from friends in Ceylon, Burma, Siam and Japan, he founded the Mahabodhi Society of India, with her Headquarters at Calcutta. Anagarika Dharmapala made representations to the Viceroy of India, and instituted legal proceedings against the Hindu Mahant in the Courts of West Bengal and Bihar.
 

Finally, long after his demise (in April 1933), at Saranath, with the assistance of Dr. Rajendra Prasadr, President of India, Shri Jawaharlal Nehru and several other Indian Leaders, the Buddha-Gaya Control Act (1949) was passed by the State Assembly of Bihar, whereby Buddhists of Asia were given a greater measure of control of the Temple complex. With this legislation, the Hindu Mahant’s absolute overlordship of the holy site ended, and now a Committee of Buddhists looks after the hallowed site.
 

The Great Awakening
 

No story of Buddha-Gaya Vihara and of the Bodhi Tree would be complete without a reference to Sakyamuni Gotama Buddha, and the Great Awakening or His Enlightenment. The Books say that, after Prince Siddhartha consumed the milk rice offered with tremendous piety by Sujatha, and had regained strength, he headed towards a Bodhi Tree. Then, a grass cutter named Sotthiya had offered him eight handful of Kusa grass, which the Bodhisattva accepted. On reaching the time hallowed spot, the Great Being who was secluded from sensual desires and from unprofitable things had said to himself: "This is the immovable spot on which all previous Buddhas had planted themselves! This is the place for destroying passion’s net!"
 

He then took hold of his handful of Kusa grass by one end, and shook it. Straight away the blades of grass formed themselves into a seat of fourteen cubits long, but the King of Gods (Sakkha) are not deem it suitable that a future Buddha, so close to his goal should sit on a bunch of grass. For that reason there appeared a beautiful flat stone (Vajrasana) also known as the "diamond throne", indestructible and unshakeable on which the Bodhisattva sat motionless to meditate. The Bodhisattva turned his back to the Bodhi tree, faced East towards the Niranjana river, and making a mighty resolution, "let my skin and bones become dry and welcome! ...and let all flesh and blood in my body dry up!.. but never from this seat will I stir, until I have attained the supreme and absolute wisdom!" The Bodhisattva sat in a dyana-mudra cross legged, in an unconquerable position, from which not even the descent of a thousand thunderbolts at once could have dislodged him.
 

At this point Mara (The Evil One), sovereign of passions and personification of death, also a tempting demon exclaimed, "Prince Siddharatha is desirous of passing beyond my control, but I will not allow it"! The great fight with Mara then took place, when there were caused storms of wind, showers of sand, showers of weapons in which spears, swords and arrows flew through the sky. Mara also caused showers of coals red hot, hot ashes and mud to drive away the Buddha. He finally caused three beautiful daughters. Thirst (Desire), Joy (Tenderness) and Delight (Raga) to sing and dance before the Buddha, hoping to seduce him and break his Ghana,... but failed. He, without even turning his head to see them, dismissed them, and instantly they turned into old women! Mara then commanded, "Siddhartha arise from your seat. It does not belong to you, but to me".
 

When the Great Being heard this, he said to Mara, "you have not fulfilled the TEN PERFECTIONS, NOR HAVE YOU MADE THE FIVE GREAT DONATIONS, (i.e. gift of treasure, gift of child, gift of wife (Vessantara Jataka), gift of royal rule, and gift of Life (Sasa Jataka) and of limb, nor have you striven for knowledge, nor for welfare of the world, nor for enlightenment. This seat does not belong to you, but to me.." The conversation with Mara continued, whence Mara questioned, "Siddhartha, who is witness to your having given these donations
 

"Your witness." replied the Bodhisattva, "are animate beings, and I have no animate witnesses present. However, not to mention the donations which I gave in other existences, the great seven-hundred fold donation which I gave in my Vessantara existence, shall now be testified by the solid earth inanimate though she be". And drawing forth his right hand from beneath his priestly garb, he stretched it towards the mighty earth until the tips of his fingers touched the earth in (Bhumishparshamudra) and said, "are you witness, or are you not to my having given a great seven-hundred fold donation in my Vessantara existence"? And then, the mighty earth thundered, "I bear witness to you"! The earth then quaked and Mara ran away in fear.
 

The story continues, "Then the hosts of gods, when they saw the array of Mara flee, cried out,

 

"Mara is defeated, Prince Siddhartha has conquered; let us go and celebrate them victory"!

 

The Victory now hath this illustrious Buddha won!

The Wicked One, the Slayer, hath defeated been!

Thus round the Throne of Wisdom shouted joyously,

The band of snakes sang songs of victory for the Sage,

The flock of birds, sang songs of victory for the Sage,

The band of Gods sang their songs of victory for the Sage,

The Brahma - angels sang songs of Victory for the Saint!

 

Sir Edwin Arnold in The Light of Asia poem, describes the heraldic scenario.
 

Watching those golden splendours flood the sky, and saying "There hath happen some mighty thing. Jungles saw the day of Friendship amongst creatures; spotted deer browsed fearlessly where the tigress fed her cubs, And cheetahs lapped the pool beside the ducks; under the eagle’s rock, the brown hares scoured while his fierce beak but preened an idle wing; the snake sunned all his jewels in the beam with deadly fangs in sheath; the strike let pass the nestling finch, the emerald halycons stayed dreaming whilst the fishes played beneath... When thus, He had attained omniscience, and was the centre of such unparalleled glory and homage, the great master, the compassionate one, the king of peace (Santhi Raja) breathed forth that solemn utterance which never, never has bee omitted by any of the Buddhas,

 

"Through birth and rebirth endless rounds,

seeking in vain, I hasten on,

To find who framed this edifice,

What misery birth incessantly!

0 Builder! I have discovered thee

This fabric (i.e Craving) thou shall never rebuild,

The rafters (i.e Passions) are all broken now;

Your ridgepole (i.e Ignorance) is demolished,

My mind has now attained unformed Nibbana

And reached the end of the craving (i.e Desire)"
 

- Sutta Nipatha 111
 

(Translated by Lord Chalmers)

 

All these glorious happenings took place on a full moon day in the month of May, when flowers bloom, Orchards are laden with fruits, the birds sing and there is warmth in the air.

 

05 05 2012 - The Island

 

Journal

News

Letters

Books

Personalities History

Articles Index

J14.17   Some thoughts for Vesak

Premasari Epasinghe
 

Vesak is the most significant, sacred day for Buddhists all over the world. On this day, let us analyse the vision and knowledge of Buddhism, and follow the Great Philosophy that leads us to attain the Blissful nothing-less, signalling the end of the cycle of birth and death - the ultimate bliss of nibbana.
 

The birth of Prince Siddhartha, at Lumbini, on 623 BC at the foothills of the snowy Himalayas in Nepal, attainment of Buddha hood at the foot of the Bodhi Tree at Gaya (Vesak – 558 BC) and the demise of the Great Gautama Buddha at Kusinara on 543 BC, took place on a Vesak Full Moon Pura Pasalosvaka Poya Day. These three are the most important events in the Buddhist calender. Therefore, Vesak is ‘very special to Buddhists’.
 

The birth of Prince Siddhartha and the events that followed later in his life, changed the course of history in India. During the time of Siddhartha Gautama, there were a number of religious schools of thought and there were six famous religious thinkers, namely Niganthanathaputra – Mahaviru – the Naked Asela, Makkalli Goshala, Purna Kassapa, Ajitha Keshakamala, Pukudakallhayana, and Sanjaya Bellatiputta. They went on different paths in seeking their liberation – (Vimukthi).
 

The real cultural and social revolution, took place after the introduction of Buddhism in India. The Buddhist Message of morality, surpassed all other religious beliefs in India. No other contemporary religious leader, introduced a ‘scientific religious philosophy’ like Buddhism, which consisted of the eight fold path - a way of living’ which consisted of right understanding, thought, speech, action, livelihood, effort, mindfulness, and right concentration. There factors can be categorized into three stages of training, morality and mental culture and wisdom. Today, there are about six hundred million Buddhists all over the world. It was a philosophy which started with ‘five panchavaggiya bhikkus’.
 

Buddhism is a ‘thinking religion’. There is no blind faith. Buddha always give priority to mind. He said, "Don’t believe it just because I say it. Think wisely and accept it."
 

On this important day of Vesak, most of the Buddhist devotees mainly engage in donating three kinds of gifts – amisa dana (gift of material things), abhaya dana (the gift of life) and dhamma dana (gift of truth).
 

Amisa dana is very common. It is practiced by people of all religions. Food, clothes, and houses are given to the needy. It is a good thing to satisfy the hunger of the starved. This type of donations are highly recommended in Buddhism. Buddha, as a Bodhisattva, has performed many amisa and abhaya danas in his samsaric journey.
 

Next comes abhaya dana – giving life to those who are in danger. On this Vesak Day to donate blood and help another human life are highly meritorious. Donation of eyes and kidney are also highly appreciated in Buddhism.
 

Another important aspect that all human beings should inculcate, is dhamma dana, the gift of truth or the doctrine. It means to teach and explain the doctrine to the people, to deviate from the wrong path and lead them on the right path, and introduce which is moral.
 

An accumulation of wealth is a valuable adjunct to success if held with-in proper bounds. The accumulation of wealth leads to restlessness, blighting, discontentment, envy, greed, fear, etc. The accumulation of money or wealth may aid in the achievement of pleasure, but does not itself bring satisfaction. This is the reason that the Buddha once said – ‘Riches destroy the fools, but not the wise’. Therefore, as Buddhists, we must live a pious, balanced life and help the poor.
 

In the samsaric journey, Gautama Buddha as a Bodhisatva taught us the importance of sacrifices for the welfare of others.
 

Buddhism teaches us not to hurt or kill beings. It’s a philosophy that teaches us to love and compassion. If you are benevolent to the society, this society will be a very pleasant place to live. Perform your duties for the betterment of the society. Always, put country before self.
 

According to the Buddhist point of view, I presume, pride or arrogance is one of the abominable vices. They say ‘humility is the wise men’s measuring rod’. Buddha himself discarded his princely pride. He never had superior aim. He was a religious teacher, who opposed caste system. He had the time for most humble men as well as the kings, royalty and nobles. He treated all of them in equal status.
 

The Buddha was a fountain of compassion. Tolerance is the gift of the Buddhist monk code. He was a great communicator. Once, when the blessed one was residing at the city of Kapilavastu, a Sakyan named Mahanama, approached him, and questioned: ‘How to become a Virtuous Person?’
 

The Buddha replied: ‘Everyone should abstain from the destruction of life, from taking what is not given to you, abstain from sexual misconduct and false speech, refrain from consuming intoxicants. Mahanama these basic principles, are called Panchaseela. Follow it, you will become a virtuous one.
 

According to Anguttara Nikaya, the art of harmonious and peaceful living Buddha explained thus: "Persistence in one’s work, protection of property and wealth gained righteously, good public relations practice and friendship, balanced living, faith in Buddha Dhamma and practice Panchaseela – five precepts, generosity and wisdom about Impermanence.
 

In another discourse, eight questions are raised with reference to the sea. When all rivers and streams ultimately flow to the sea, the expense of water cannot be identified as water from this river or that river. The buddha explained to an asura who raised the questions – ‘It’s called sea water. Just like them in my philosophy, there are no castes, colour or creed. My philosophy is universal. It belongs to everyone. There are no social discrimination.’
 

The Buddha was the first religious universalist. He send his disciples to spread the Dhamma. He never ‘converted anyone by force’. The Buddha uttered: ‘Go forth for the good of many; happiness of many; out of compassion to the world, for the betterment and welfare of many teach them the truth. Let no two of you go in the same direction’.
 

Buddha influenced the entire society by the power of his wisdom and words. He was an orator par-excellence. He knew his target audience. He was the greatest social reformer that the world produced.
 

The status of women in pre-Buddhist Society was pathetic. They were relegated to a status lower and inferior to that of men. It was the Buddha who opened the door for women to become lay devotees (Upasikas) and established the order of Nuns (Bhikkhuni Sasana) under his foster-mother Maha Prajapati Gothami.
 

Let us all pledge on this serene Vesak Full Moon Poya Day to refrain from doing evil (Sabbapapassa Akaranam) to indulge in doing good (Kusalassa Upasampada) to cleanse one’s mind (Sacchitta Pariyo Dapanam) this is the teaching of all Buddhas (Etam Buddhanu Sasanam).

 

May the Triple Gem Bless You!

 

 

Journal

News

Letters

Books

Personalities History

Articles Index

J14.18    The Out-of-doors So Significant in the Life of the Buddha

Every aspect, facet and fact of Prince Siddhartha Gautama’s life is different and so unique. This uniqueness continued with enhancement once he attained enlightenment and walked, preached and grew old as the Buddha. In the midst of this uniqueness is the fact that every major happening in his life took place out in the open, in gardens, forests and even just outside his several palaces and later kutis.

 

Birth

 

"In 623 BC, on a full moon day of May – Vasanta-tide, when in India the trees were laden with leaf, flower and fruit, and man, bird and beast were in joyous mood, Queen Mahamaya was traveling in state from Kapilawatthu to Devedaha, her parental home, according to the custom of the times, to give birth to her child. But that was not to be, for halfway between the two cities, in the beautiful Lumbini Grove, under the shade of a flowering Sal tree, she brought forth a son."
 

Lumbini visited three decades ago was vast, lonely, wreathed in mist and had about it an aura of mystique. The cool placid water of the lake reminded one of the Queen who felt her labour pains here at this spot. The Asokan column is solid enough and announces that here is the site where Prince Siddhartha was born – "hida budhe jate Sakyamni" in Asokan characters. Visited two years ago, the excavations, new buildings, built up lake and touristy atmosphere all took away from the subtle aura of long ago.
 

The first sign the child was no ordinary child but given to grave contemplation was out in the open during a harvest festival in Kapilavatthu. The Prince glimpsed the four significant visions that so shocked him: a sick person, an old man, a dead body and a recluse while out riding with his charioteer Channa and these sights seen outside the palace in which he was kept cloistered to prevent just such an occurrence. The disturbing strange sights firmed his mind that life was full of suffering.


Renunciation, ascetism and Buddhahood
 

At age 29 his goodbye to his princely life and the throne on the night of his becoming a father was carried out in the open. Cutting his hair, he handed over his rich clothes and ornaments to his charioteer and donned a brown robe. Thus his entering the life of an ascetic seeking the truth of life. He led the life of a homeless hermit, hence most certainly Prince Siddhartha would have spent his days and nights out in the open and under trees. He starved his body, went from teacher to teacher and then, on the point of death, after six years of deprivation, he decided that a mind and its attendant organs and thought processes including reasoning could not function without sufficient bodily nourishment. Thus his resumption of taking food and being looked upon derisively by the five ascetics he was with.
 

Traveling to Uruwela, he sat under a banyan tree. Sujata, the daughter of a rich man, was told by her servant who’d gone to sweep the spot under the tree that the divine being of the tree had descended that day. Sujata joyfully offered the dane she had prepared for the tree spirit. The last meal of the Bodhisatva was had out of doors. He walked across the River Neranjara at Gaya and "making the final effort with the inflexible resolution: ’Though only my skin, sinews and bones remain, and my blood and flesh dry up and wither way, yet will I never stir from this seat until I have attained full Enlightenment.’" In the four watches of the night, in deep, deep meditation he comprehended the truth. "This is suffering (dukkha); this is the arising of suffering, this is the cessation of suffering, this is the path leading to the cessation of suffering." "Thus the Bodhisatva Gotama at the age of thirty five on another full moon of May (Vesakha – Vesak) in 578 BC attained Supreme Enlightenment by comprehending in all its fullness, the Four Noble Truths, the Eternal Verities and had become the Buddha,. This is the greatest unshakeable victory. Through personal experience he understood the supremacy of man."
 

He spent seven weeks in the vicinity of the Bo Tree, the first in "experiencing the supreme bliss of Emancipation" and ‘formulating’ the Dhamma in his mind such as dependent arising - patticca samuppada. One week he sat in gratitude to the tree that had sheltered him.
 

Making known the Dhamma
 

He decided to make known the truth to the five ascetics and so walked to the Deer Park in Isipatana, in Benares, and "preaching his first sermon on the moon day of July set in motion the Wheel of Dhamma – dhamma cakka pavattana sutta." This site retains its sanctity though extensively built around and particularly since every evening monks, mostly Sri Lankan and from other Theravada Buddhist countries, chant the first Sermon of the Buddha. Gratitude is also given to Anagarika Dharmapala to whom a statue is erected here for his immense work in freeing Buddhist sites of significance from Hindu ownership.
 

And so the Buddha traveled on foot for 45 years with his constant companion by his side, Thera Ananda, who knew best the exact preachings of the Buddha. He had a following of monks, which Sangha increased in numbers rapidly and proceeded to spread the Dhamma as ordained by the Buddha: "Go now and wander for the welfare and happiness of many, out of compassion for the world, for the gain, welfare and happiness of gods and men. Let not two of you proceed in the same direction. Proclaim the Dhamma that is excellent in the beginning, excellent in the middle and excellent in the ends, possessed of meaning and utterly perfect. There are beings with little dust in their eyes who will be lost through not hearing the Dhamma, there are beings who will understand the Dhamma. I also shall go to Uruvela, to Senanigama, and teach the Dhamma."
 

The Buddha and his Sangha dwelt in many places dedicated to them, visiting Kapilawasthu, resulting in his foster mother, Prajapati Gotami, asking to be a nun, refused by the Buddha but finally persuaded by Ananda to give her permission and thus the institution of the Order of Nuns. Rahula his only son joined the Sangha. The most number of years, from the 21st year to the 43rd were spent by the Buddha at Sravasthi and 18 vas seasons at the Jetavana Monastery. To me this place is the most sanctified and still maintained as a place full of ruins of kutis, with commercialism kept outside. The Ananda Bodiya, a bo tree planted during the Buddha’s time when Ananda requested a reminder of the Buddha when he set forth on his preaching, stands strong and spreading, surely a second or third generation. There surrounds the place and envelops you as you walk around and see the very kuti below ground level that the Buddha occupied, a distinct aura of sanctity and joy, yes, joy that you have benefited by the Teacher who lived here.

 

Death

 

"The Blessed one had now reached the ripe age of eighty; his two chief disciples, Pajapati Gotami, Yasodhara and Rahula were also no more. The Buddha was now at Vesali. There a severe sickness fell upon him, causing him much pain and agony, but the Blessed One, mindful and self-possessed, bore it patiently. He was on the verge of death; but he felt he should not pass away without taking leave of the Order. So with great effort of will he suppressed that illness and kept his hold on life."
 

"Ananda, I am now grown old and full of years, my journey is drawing to a close. I have reached my sum of days, I am turning eighty years of age." He compared himself to an old cart. He traveled to Kusinara with great difficulty with Ananda and reaching a sal grove, requested a bed be made in the open. He lay down, preached to Subadda and then addressed the monks: "Behold now, O monks, I exhort you: impermanent are all compounded things. Work out your deliverance with mindfulness. ‘Vaya dhamma samkhara, appamadena sampadetha.’’ The trees shed their flowers on the Buddha who had reached his Parinibbana.
 

Most pilgrims are deeply touched at Kusinara by the reclining statue of the Buddha with the feet sculpted to show damage to the soles with years of walking. The place is so very serene, so full of the sorrow of his passing away but joy that he lived and we live to visit the four places he said a Buddhist should visit, not to venerate him but to be reminded of him so we follow his instructions and the Path he showed to us.

 

May the sanctity of this Vesak season calm us all and bring peace, joy and justice to our country.

 

Note: Quoations are from The Spectrum of Buddhism by Piyadassi Thera.

 

06 05 2012 - Sunday Island

 

Journal

News

Letters

Books

Personalities History

Articles Index

J14.19   Life and its purpose

M B Werapitiya


“...Nothing comes from nothing,

Nothing ever could.
But somewhere in my youth or childhood,
I must have done something good.”

The above words are taken from a song in the motion film, ‘The Sound of Music’ a musical extravaganza. The composer of the song has given credence to the Buddhist theory of cause and effect which in the realm of ethics is known as Kamma. Kamma means action and Vipaka its effect, result or return. An explanation of Kamma taken from ‘The Path to Purity’, a commentary on the teaching of the Buddha runs as follows -

“According to the seed that is sown,
So is the fruit you reap therefrom.
Doer of good will gather good,
Doer of evil, evil reaps.
Sown is the seed and planted well,
Thou shalt enjoy the fruit thereof.”

Kamma is a law in itself which operates in its own field without the intervention of any external agency. Taking as a fact that nothing comes from nothing, let us go into the origination of man and man’s purpose.


Christianity admitting the possibility of an ultimate origin attributes everything to the fiat of the Almighty God. Should that be the case, then man’s consciousness and life-force are endowments from the same source. It then follows that the whole of mankind should think alike, act alike, experience alike, grow alike, decay and die alike. However, the reality is that no two persons are identically alike physically and mentally, with each one working out one’s own destiny.

According to the science of physics nothing is created. Things arise out of causes and conditions. Consciousness and life-force being energies they cannot be created.

Matter, consciousness and life-force are the three distinct factors that go to constitute man. With their combination a powerful force known as man comes into being. He becomes his own creator or destroyer.

According to the Buddha’s ‘Law of Dependent/Origination’ ignorance (avijja) of the truth of sorrow, its cause, its ending and the path to its elimination is the chief cause that sets man’s wheel of life in motion. In other words it is not knowing of things as they truly are or of oneself as one realizes. It clouds real understanding.

Ignorance brings forth craving and grasping which bind one to existence. Craving and grasping lead to actions which generate kammic energy that conditions consciousness which becomes the re-linking consciousness for rebirth to take place. When mother and father get together at a time when it is the mother’s fertile period, and the being-to-be-born is present, then by the conjunction of these three factors, the germ of life is planted in the mother’s womb.

The being-to-be-born is the re-linking consciousness of a dying person. This re-linking consciousness has the entire history of its past.

According to science, man is absolutely parent-born. As such life precedes life. With regard to the first protoplasm of life scientists plead ignorance.

However, when a patient is hypnotized for diagnostic purposes it has been the experience of the hypnotist that the patient could speak of his previous births which when investigated into were found to be unbelievably accurate. That is proof that consciousness does not cease with death but continues to manifest itself.

To nullify the theory that chemical changes in the brain produce consciousness, philosopher David H Lund raises the question, “How can the brain a material substance produce something as radically different from it as consciousness? How can the brain create out of its own substance a reality that has no mass, no shape, no size and is not seen in space?”

Edgar Cayce the great American physicist who in a hypnotic trance gave thousands of readings to those who appeared before him or sent names and addresses spoke of Kamma as a debit and credit ledger of life that carries over from one life to the next and must be dealt with if the individual is to develop.

In one of Cayce’s readings he revealed that the identity was in the fair country of Alta or Poseida in that force that brought the highest civilization and knowledge that has been known in the earth’s plain.

This we find was about 10,000 BC when Ra Ta fled Atlantis to build new cultures in Egypt, Middle East etc. Cayce fixes Amilius’ reign in Atlantis to around 103,000 BC.

Materialists attribute everything to the natural order of things making them believe life’s purpose is to - “Eat, drink and be merry for death comes to all as an end to life. Virtue is a delusion and enjoyment is the only reality. Religion is a foolish abberation, a mental disease.

There is no need to control passion and instinct since they are nature’s legacy to man.” According to Buddhism, the chief cause that set man’s wheel of life in motion is ignorance. Hence ignorance has to be overcome with wisdom.

The path one has to follow is very clear, i.e. Developing mental discipline, concentration of mind, wisdom and intuition. What then takes place is that the mind is cleansed of all the defilements arising from greed, hatred and delusion awakens to see things in their true nature.

Ouspensky reminds us that instead of speculating about the purpose of life, if we simply look within ourselves, then we would see that in reality the meaning of life is not after all so obscure but it consists in knowledge.

What have the scientists to offer? Their view is expressed thus -
“Has life a purpose? What or where or when?
Out of space came universe, came sun,
Came earth, came life, came man and more must come,
But as to purpose, whose or whence? Why? None.”

The Bodhisattva (Buddha-to-be) summoning all his courage, will and determination at his command sat under the Bo tree at Gaya, never to rise therefrom until he discovered the cause of sorrow and its elimination.

His approach was through meditation which brings about self-discipline, self-control, self-purification and self-enlightenment. Thus developing wisdom and insight he flushed the defilements of his mind arising from craving, hatred and delusion.

Then the kammic energy that flowed for one, runs its course to a finish, ending re-birth producing consciousness. His search was complete knowing that re-birth it is that causes sorrow, grief and lamentation. The rapture he experienced made him say, “Of things unheard before there arose in me the vision, the knowledge, the wisdom, the insight and the light.” Reaching that unconditioned state of mind he became an Awakened Buddha. The Buddha’s ministry lasted forty five years. His teaching which brought an intellectual awakening is based on self-experience and is open for verification. Those who followed His Eightfold Path of right understanding, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration reached their goal of Nibbana as Arahants.
 

dailynews.lk/2012/09/29/


Journal

News

Letters

Books

Personalities History

Articles Index

J14.20   Planes of existence, a Buddhist perspective

Dr Senerath Tennakoon


We live in an age in which science enjoys remarkable success. We have mapped out a grand scheme of how the physical universe works on scales from quirks to galactic clusters, and of the living world from the molecular machinery of cells to the biosphere. But there are limits to science, knowledge and understanding.

Perhaps the most fundamental limitation on knowledge is the cosmic horizon beyond which we will never see as nothing can travel faster than light (Brooks, 2011). Buddhism inherited much of its traditional cosmology from common Indian lore, and in certain basic respects is consistent with the concepts of modern science particularly in conceiving the universe to be vastly greater in space and time that it was envisaged to be in the West.

The world “lo:ka” includes the whole cosmos which is believed to be infinite in space and time passing through immense cycles of evolution and decline. But within it are smaller.... units known as world systems (lokadhatu/chakravala) which correspond roughly to solar systems. Such a unit consists of the sun and the moon, Mt Meru, four continents, four oceans, the four great Kings (chaturmaharaja/lokapala), and the seven fold heavenly spheres.

One thousand of these small units form a small world system, and the medium and the large systems are each one thousand times greater than the one below. These larger world systems correspond roughly to the modern concept of a galaxy.

(Keown, 2003)

 

According to Abhidhamma there are thirty one planes of existence which constitute the samsa:ra (the cycle of repeated birth and death that individuals undergo until they attain nirvana). This cycle is like the universe, has no beginning and individuals transmigrate from one existence to the next in accordance to their karma or moral conduct/volition. These thirty one planes have been classified under three main spheres namely:

The main sphere of sense desire (kamaloka) which has eleven planes of existence. These are the four planes of misery (hell or niraya, demons or asurayoni, those with deformed bodies in perpetual hunger and thirst names peta yoni and the plane of animals or tiracchana yoni respectively).

Beings are born into these planes because of their previous unwholesome karma and while they suffer in these planes they are unable to generate wholesome karma but when the effects of their bad kamma extinguish if they have some good kamma in storage they may be born in another plane of existence.

The human plane (manussa loka). Human beings are born into this plane as a result of their previous wholesome karmic action. Here they can shape out their destiny with conscious wholesome kammic action through thought, word and actions.

There are six heavenly planes. These are the planes of the deities of the four quarters (caturmaharajika), realm of the 33 devas (tavtimsa), yama, realm of delight (tusitha), deities enjoying their creations (nimmanarati) and deities who control the creation of others (paranimmita-vasa-vati).

Birth into these planes is also a result of ones previous wholesome kamma. These deities enjoy aesthetic pleasure, longivity, they are pretty and have unusual powers.

The second main sphere of existence is the fine- material sphere (rupa loka). There are altogether sixteen such planes of existence. Only those beings that have been attaining jha:nas (higher knowledge of understanding the Dhamma through yonisomanasikara thoughts thus getting rid of defilements) are born into this sphere. Their bodies are fine and there are sixteen planes of existence depending upon the level of jhana attained. Those who have reached the first jhana are born in one of the three realms-realm of Brahama’s retinue (brahma purisajja), realm of Brahma’s ministers (brahma purohita) or

realm of great Brahma (maha brahma) respectively.

Those who have reached the second jhana state are born into the plane of minor lusture (paeittabha), realm of infinite lusture (appamanabha) or into the realm of radiant lusture (abhassara) respectively. As a result of attaining the third jhana one could be born into the realm of minor aura (partita suba), realm of infinite aura (appamana subha) or the realm of steady/persistent aura (subha kinha) respectively. There are two realms namely realm of great reward (velapphala) and the realm of mindless beings (asannasatta) allocated for those who have attained the fourth jhana state. Those who have attained the non returning stage (anagamiphala) there are five abodes. These are the durable realm (aviha brahma), the serene realm (atappa brahma), the beautiful realm (suddhassa brahma), the clear sighted realm (suddasi brahma) and the highest realm (akanita brahma) respectively.

These five realms are collectively termed Pure Abodes (sudda vasa) are accessible to those who have done away with the five fetters – self view, skeptical doubt, clinging to rites and ceremonies, sensual pleasure and ill-will. While they remain in these abodes they can do away with the remaining five fetters namely craving for fine material existence, conceit, restlessness and ignorance. The non returnees in these abodes attain nibbana in due course.

Buddhism has no concept of heaven as an eternal realm, but it recognizes a hierarchy of spiritual levels above and beyond this world into which one may be reborn as a god (deva). There are 26 such heavenly worlds. But these heavens are impermanent states and in due course one will be reborn in a lower realm when the good karma which caused the heavenly birth runs out. The ultimate goal of Buddhism is not heaven but nirvana (Keown, 2003).

The third main sphere is the immaterial formless sphere (aru:pa lo:ka). There are four planes of existence in this main sphere.

These are the sphere of infinity of space (a:ka:sanayatana), the sphere of infinity of consciousness (vinnanancayatana), the sphere of nothingness (akinicanna:ya:tana) and the sphere neither perception or non perception (neva sanna-nasannayatana).

It has been stated that the Buddha could see these world systems because of His unlimited power of clairvoyance. His disciple Anuruddha exhibited limited powers of clairvoyance. (Jayatilleke, 1971).

 

dailynews.lk/2012/09/29/
 

 

    End of Aloka Journal Page 14   

Journal

News

Letters

Books

Personalities

History

Aloka Home

 

The Four Reliances

First, rely on the spirit and meaning of the teachings,
not on the words;

Second, rely on the teachings,
not on the personality of the teacher;

Third, rely on real wisdom,
not superficial interpretation;

And fourth, rely on the essence of your pure Wisdom Mind,
not on judgmental perceptions.

 

Mail to Aloka

©Aloka 99-2012